BOMB-DISPOSAL AHEAD OF THE PUTIN-BUSH SUMMIT

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Condoleezza Rice meets with President Putin and senior Russian officials

Condoleezza Rice is making her first visit to Russia in the capacity of Secretary of State, to discuss preparations for a Putin-Bush meeting in May. Following the Bratislava summit, Moscow and Washington have continued to be displeased by each other’s actions.On April 19, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was two hours late for her meeting with Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, due to a bomb threat: someone phoned in to claim that bombs had been planted in and around the Renaissance Moscow Hotel, where Rice was due to stay. After a search determined that there were no bombs, Rice moved into her suite.


Today Rice is meeting with President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, to discuss preparations for Putin’s meeting with President George W. Bush on May 9.

In the lead-up to Rice’s visit, journalists and analysts were discussing whether all the time-bombs in Russian-American have been cleared away. Following the Bratislava summit, Moscow and Washington have continued to be displeased by each other’s actions: the White House still holds a grudge against the Kremlin for the role it played in Ukraine’s presidential election, and for selling 100,000 automatic rifles to Venezuela, and for ignoring requests to take action against copyright violation and piracy. Meanwhile, the Kremlin is convinced that the United States is behind the “velvet revolutions” in the former Soviet Union and is attempting to encircle Russia.

This is Rice’s first visit to Russia in the capacity of Secretary of State. En route to Moscow, she formulated the basic principle of Washington’s approach to relations with Moscow. It’s all about advancing democracy, and in Rice’s opinion this presents a “mixed picture” right now: “centralization of power in the president’s hands at the expense of other branches of government, particularly the Duma or an independent judiciary, certainly causes great concern.” In this context, Rice also mentioned the new system of selecting regional leaders, as well as the possibility that Russia’s Constitution may be amended to allow Putin a third term in office (while noting that Putin “has given his word” not to do so). The main problem, in Rice’s view, is “the absence of independent electronic media in Russia.” (On two occasions, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has sent Rice a selection of recorded Russian television programs, to demonstrate that pluralism does exist in Russia. However, Rice’s opinion of these recordings is unknown.)

On the other hand, Rice maintains that a return to a totalitarian society in Russia is inconceivable. She noted that Russian citizens have civil rights and civil liberties, and Putin’s political opponents are preparing to run in the next presidential election. A recent American opinion poll found that 62% of respondents would accept a woman as president; 53% of them named Senator Hillary Clinton as their favorite, while 42% named Condoleezza Rice.

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