Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Russia's Soviet shuttle may fly again to bail out NASA

The Soviet-era Buran space programme, mothballed 20 years ago, may be revived. With NASA about to retire its ageing fleet of space shuttles, there is a pressing need for viable space transport

Two decades ago the Soviet space shuttle Buran blasted off on its first and only orbital flight. Just a few years later, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the programme was shelved.

The Buran was the Soviet Union's answer to NASA’s space shuttle programme. On November 15, 1988, the shuttle was propelled out of the Earth’s atmosphere by the specially designed Energia booster rocket from the Baikonur launch pad in Kazakhstan.

Pavel Sharov from Cosmonauts News Magazine explains the advantages the Soviets had over their rivals in the U.S.

“The USSR surpassed the Americans in technology – U.S. shuttles can only be landed by humans, while the Buran lands automatically,” Sharov said.

Magomet Talboev was one of the pilots who test-flew the shuttle without going into orbit. He said the Soviet authorities had high hopes for the multi-billion dollar spacecraft.

The Energia-Buran programme was started to get the capability to attack the United States, just like the shuttle was able to attack the USSR. We also wanted to take the Skylab space station from orbit. Buran was supposed to put it in its cargo bay and deliver it back to Earth for studies,” Tolboev said.

But the project was scrapped before these plans could be fulfilled. They sank aalong with the Soviet regime. The Energia-Buran became one of the Soviet Union's last super-projects. Billions of dollars were invested and more than a 1.5 million people worked to design and build it. Nevertheless, the Buran went into orbit only once before the collapse of the Soviet Union.

After nearly a decade in a hangar, the only Buran that went into space was destroyed when a roof collapsed at Baikonur launch facility in 2002.

Although the Buran project ended prematurely, not all the ideas from it were left buried. Some of the technologies developed at the time are now used in everyday life. Fore example, several heat-resistant materials used to make deep-fryers are a direct result of the research done during Buran's development.

Buran technologies may make an unexpected return to the space industry as well.

Because NASA will soon retire its ageing space shuttle fleet, some American and Russian scientists are beginning to think of ways to revive the Buran programme.

It may be more economical than developing an entirely new spacecraft from scratch.

Thawing out 'Cold War II' Russia remains a Superpower

Trust, but verify, was Ronald Reagan's approach to the Soviets as they worked on arms control during the cold war. The phrase showed his hopes for the relationship, but also acknowledged the limitations. Four presidents later, his mantra still applies – even as Washington seeks a fresh start with Moscow this week.

When Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meets with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Geneva on Friday, they will begin talks while at the lowest point in US-Russian relations since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. No question, it's time to "press the reset button," as Vice President Biden said at a security conference in Munich last month.

Russia, under Vladimir Putin, shares most of the blame for this low point. The Kremlin has cracked down on political and civil freedoms at home and waged war – both economic and military – in its "near abroad." It has demagogued, turning Russians against the West.

But the US and its allies are not without fault. Their mistake was not in their principles, but in their PR – expanding NATO and the European Union in a way and at a speed that alarmed Russia, putting Moscow on the defensive and, more recently, offensive. Russians also didn't take well to lecturing on democracy and capitalism.

"Cold War II" has produced serious fallout. Threats of common concern – a nuclear Iran, a Taliban comeback, energy insecurity, loose nukes and other weapons issues – have suffered from lack of attention, even obstruction.

Several factors can help improve ties, which Moscow says it wants.

One is willingness on both sides for a new round of nuclear arms negotiations, which will be the main subject of Friday's talks. This is a manageable topic that also reaffirms Russia as a superpower. In the past, the step-by-step process of such talks helped build trust that also led to progress in human rights.

Another factor is a change in US tone. In Mr. Biden's Munich rollout of a new foreign policy, his commitment to "listen [and] consult" met a warm response from European allies and Moscow alike. Willingness to rethink an anti-Iranian missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic – an acute irritant to Russia – should also help.

And an economic crisis just might change Moscow's tone, introducing a new humility.

In Washington, some go so far as to suggest deepening US commercial ties with Russia as a way to slowly build a partnership. This may work, yet Germany has gone this route, and Moscow repays Berlin by holding it hostage to natural gas disputes with Ukraine.

Indeed, that response points to the limitations of the reset button. Is it possible to be partners when one side conducts internal and foreign policy through diktat and arm twisting, while the other values democratic persuasion? The Obama team rightly says that issues such as sovereignty and freedom to choose alliances (read: Georgia and Ukraine) are not up for debate.

In the end, it has to be remembered that while Russia is not the Soviet Union, its "managed democracy" is not democracy. The Obama team deserves encouragement for its new openness with Moscow. But it must also be open-eyed about the possibilities.

By the Monitor's Editorial Board March 3, 2009

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Russia finally outstrips the USA in arms exports

Experts of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute have prepared another report about the export of arms in the world. The specialists calculated that Russia has become world's largest exporter of weapons during 2000-2004. The Swedish experts based their report on the military value of the delivered weaponry. Judging upon the income, which Russian exporters have received during the mentioned period, the country ranks only third or fourth on the list.

According to SIPRI, the first five positions of the list of world’s largest exporters of arms (with up to 81 percent of deliveries) are distributed between: Russia ($26.9 billion), the USA ($25.9 billion), France ($6.3 billion), Germany ($4.8 billion) and Great Britain ($4.4 billion).

The research shows that Russia has considerably increased the sales of its weaponry abroad and even managed to leave the USA behind (the USA was taking the leading position in the field before 2000). The gross arms sales profit of the USA reached $53.4 billion dollars at the end of the 90s, whereas Russia could boast of only $16.4 billion.

SIPRI’s statistics is based on a special method of calculation. The rating was made on the ‘military value’ of the delivered arms, but not on their actual cost. An expert with SIPRI said that the estimates of the institute based on the number of delivered planes, tanks, missile systems, etc, did not reflect exporters’ financial results. The Swedish experts have not used the cost of the delivered arms because it is very hard to receive the comparable data on account of different national calculation systems.

Russian weapons are usually cheaper than their Western analogues. Therefore, the financial outcome of a deal is a lot lower than the ‘military value’ of the sold military items. For example, in 2002 Russia sold about 60 Su aircraft and 25 MiG planes. SIPRI proceeded from the cost of each Su-30 plane equating it with the price of the US-made F-15 ($50 million), although the real price of a Russian pursuit plane can be under $35 million.

Konstantin Makiyenko, a spokesman for the Center for Strategies and Technologies, said that Russia followed the USA, France and probably Great Britain from the point of view of the income received from arms sales. The Russian defense industry has been developing very fast lately, which means that the volume of arms exports will continue to grow.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute is one of the world’s leading centers analyzing the global defense market.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta
May 29, 2006

Putin's France visit renews fears over possible warship purchase

Russian premier Vladimir Putin met French leaders Friday on a visit aimed at boosting economic ties. But his trip sparked concern amid reports that Russia plans to buy a French warship that would significantly boost its military capabilities.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin concluded a raft of deals with French business leaders on Friday during a visit aimed at luring investment into Russia’s auto and energy industries. But his two-day trip has set off alarm bells in some parts of Europe amid reports that Moscow also has plans to purchase a French-made aircraft carrier that would significantly boost Russia’s military capabilities.
Russian and French officials have confirmed that the two nations are in continuing negotiations for the purchase of a Mistral warship and a licence to produce at least four others in an unprecedented transfer of military technology from a NATO power.
Moscow’s interest in the Mistral also marks a sea change in Kremlin policy, as Russia has long remained the sole producer of its military hardware.
The second-largest ship in the French fleet at more than 21,000 tonnes and almost 200 metres in length, the Mistral can carry 16 helicopters, up to 900 troops as well as landing craft and tanks. It is designed to transport an amphibious assault force to an area of conflict quickly.
The 'Swiss-army knife' of warships
“It’s nicknamed the Swiss-army knife because it has so many different functions,” FRANCE 24’s international editor, Armen Georgian, says of the ship, which also boasts a 69-bed on-board hospital.

The commander of the Russian navy, Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky, has noted publicly that if the Mistral had been used during Russia's August 2008 conflict with Georgia, the Black Sea fleet could have deployed its troops in 40 minutes instead of the 26 hours it took to do so.

Such a blunt assessment has sparked unease in several nations formerly under Kremlin control, with Baltic governments expressing concern this week over a revamp of Russian military capability. Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet told journalists on Tuesday that his country wanted to know if a Mistral sale would include “top military technology". Lithuanian foreign ministry spokesman Rolandas Kacinskas told AFP on Wednesday that Vilnius was also seeking clarification from France, on "exactly what kind of equipment it plans to sell and what it can be used for".
French daily Le Figaro quotes Alex Rondell, president of the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies, as saying that a Mistral purchase would merely be Moscow’s latest attempt to regain its status as a superpower and reassert control over its former Soviet satellites. He, for one, has no doubts as to Russia’s long-term plans for the ship.
“The Mistral is a formidable assault ship for attacking Georgia or the Baltic countries,” Rondell said, adding that the potential deal was like France “giving a gun to a bandit”.

“This is why we are afraid,” he said.
The Monday arrival of the Mistral in St Petersburg, just days before Putin's visit to France, fuelled fears that a deal was imminent. But the Russian premier said Friday that no decision had yet been made on the purchase.
Arms for arbitration?
France has tried to soothe these fears by emphasising that it would not be selling a fully weaponised, battle-ready warship.
Although clearly motivated by the financial benefits of the Mistral deal, France also does not view the sale as compromising Georgian or Baltic security, says George Frederick Jewsbury of the Centre for Russian, Caucasian and Central European Studies in Paris. He notes that as NATO members, the Baltic states are ostensibly protected by Article Five, which calls for the alliance to respond to an attack on one member as an attack on all.
As for non-member Georgia, Jewsbury says the French view a Mistral sale as doing little to heighten the risk of another Russian incursion. He says Paris is likely estimating that Georgia would be “as exposed before as it would be after the sale of the ship”.
“They’re exposed anyway,” he says.
Le Figaro quotes one French official close to the talks as pragmatically noting that certain concessions must be made if France, and the rest of the world, want the Kremlin’s cooperation on some thorny global issues.

The unnamed official said that Europe cannot hope to build a stable continent in partnership with Moscow and expect its help on the big questions, like dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions, and yet refuse to sell Russia arms.

By Khatya CHHOR

Where Does Russia Want To Take The CIS?

The main intrigue surrounding the summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in Chisinau last week was whether Russian President Dmitry Medvedev would attend.
The Kremlin only confirmed his participation in the October 9 event on October 5. The delay only intensified speculation that even the Kremlin has come to the conclusion that the CIS is a still-born organization.
The very existence of the CIS is a major part of Russia's pretence that it is a superpower locked in competition with the United States. But is Russia really leading the bloc? And, if so, where?
Observers were also speculating intensely about the summit's agenda. Initial press statements indicated the leaders would discuss measures for coping with the economic crisis. But the Russian Foreign Ministry's October 5 statement ignored this topic and listed only routine issues including "border-security cooperation, migration policy, and the humanitarian sphere."
'Great Patriotic War'
As it turned out, the main objective of the summit was pronounced the signing of a document obliging all CIS heads of state to participate in an informal summit in May 2010 to mark the 65th anniversary of the Soviet Union's victory in World War II and proclaiming 2010 to be "the year of CIS veterans of the Great Patriotic War" with the slogan "We Won Together."
It is worth noting that the CIS had previously planned to declare 2010 "the year of science and innovation in the CIS," but Russia pushed hard for looking backward rather than ahead by focusing on the war.
In combination with Moscow's active revival of the cult of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, it would appear that Russia is pushing Soviet nostalgia/patriotism as a quasi-official ideology for the CIS, perhaps in a bid to save the floundering organization. CIS Executive Secretary Aleksandr Lebedev announced the war-anniversary commemorations would take place throughout the bloc in April and May 2010 and that all CIS countries would have to contribute to financing them.
Of course, this approach is highly controversial, since some parts of the CIS perceive the postwar period as an occupation of their lands by the Soviet Union and a national tragedy. Moscow's efforts to impose a Russian-centered view of recent history on Russia's neighbors is widely viewed as a brutal affront.
Moldova, which holds the organization's rotating presidency this year, fought hard to at least change the wording "Great Patriotic War" to "World War II," but failed -- under intense Russian diplomatic pressure. The final resolution raised eyebrows in Chisinau, but the new Moldovan government evidently opted to focus on fulfilling the obligations made by the previous government and on serving as a good host for the summit.
But the Russian side surely noticed that acting Moldovan President Mihai Ghimpu, who participated in the general talks and the "narrow-format" meeting, did not sign the final documents. He delegated this "honorable obligation" to a deputy prime minister.
Russia Throws Its Weight Around
For his part, Medvedev seemed pleased with his victory, noting wryly, "Not everybody was satisfied with some of the wording, but that's life...."
Also on October 5, Russia paved the way for the summit -- which originally was supposed to be an anticrisis summit -- with some tough announcements for Belarus and Ukraine. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin told RIA Novosti that Belarus will not get the last, $500 million tranche of a $2 billion loan and that Ukraine would not be given the $5 billion credit that Kyiv had been seeking.
During the narrow-format talks, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka were adamant in their efforts to redirect the discussion to the anticrisis measures. They complained that trade barriers with Russia were increasing rather than easing.
Russia deflected this talk and instead offered CIS members access to a new $7.5 billion Eurasian Economic Community fund (of which, Russia contributed $5 billion). Kudrin also said that Moscow supports conducting business with CIS countries in "national currencies," which was seen as a bid to install the Russian ruble as a regional currency and to push out the dollar. Doing so would increase the dependence of CIS countries on Moscow considerably.
The unanswered questions from the Chisinau summit are: Why does Moscow hold onto the past and its dubious old symbols with an apparent death grip? Is it because the Kremlin lacks a palatable vision for the future or even that it lacks confidence in its ability to really lead the CIS forward?
And is this lack of vision a result of Russia's undemocratic, closed political system? Unable to serve as an attractive example, is Moscow forced to adopt a pushy, even bullying, posture? Does it lack the confidence to take the views of other CIS members into account?
These questions are hanging in the air as Moldova has handed over the CIS presidency to Moscow for 2010 -- "the year of CIS veterans of the Great Patriotic War." The next official CIS summit will be held in Moscow in December 2010.
By Irina Severin; October 13, 2009

Friday, March 12, 2010

Russia Superpower: Syrian-Russian relations

Syrian-Russian relations have been developing at a steady pace in recent years. Since 2005, President Bashar Assad paid three visits to Moscow; the latest took place last week. It was intended to express Damascus’s firm support to Moscow in its military confrontation with Georgia and to explore means to revive the Cold-War era ties with Russia.
In the opinion of many analysts, the Russian-Georgian conflict provided Syria with a golden opportunity to convince Moscow of the importance of re-establishing their old partnership. The Russians were absolutely pleased by Bashar’s strong statement in support of the Russian position regarding the dispute over South Ossetia and Abkhazia. “We understand the Russian stance and the Russian military response as a result of the provocations which took place,” he told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev during a summit in Sochi, the Russian Black Sea resort. He also rejected “the double-standard criteria and attempts to distort the facts to portray Russia as an aggressor country”.
In fact, despite their many common interests; including opposition to American hegemony in general and to the US-led invasion of Iraq in particular, Russian-Syrian relations have not been particularly warm during most of the Vladimir Putin era. Russian-Israeli relations, by contrast, were very close under both Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Since Bashar’s Moscow visit in January 2005, however, Russian-Syrian relations have improved dramatically. Yet, while increasing cooperation with Syria, Putin sought to maintain close ties with Israel.
The recently disclosed Israeli role in arming and supporting Georgia during the conflict over South Ossetia triggered a shift in Moscow’s policy. Russia seems to have ended its hesitation regarding co-operation with Syria and decided to take it to a new level. It has, reportedly, agreed to sell an advanced air defence missile system to Syria over both American and Israeli objections. Russian-Syrian cooperation is expected to further deepen in the coming months and years as relations between Moscow and the West continues to deteriorate.
Russia in the 21st Century: The Prodigal Superpower.(Book Review): An article from: Comparative Economic Studies
Russian commentators and senior officials have highlighted the merits of reviving the close Soviet-era relationship with Syria. They argue that friendship with Damascus would help Moscow restore Russia’s “superpower status” in international politics. Former defence minister, Sergey Ivanov, stressed that the Middle East is “crucially important” for Russian “geopolitical and economic interests” and cooperation with Syria brings “tangible economic and political dividends”.
Syria’s main objective of seeking close ties with Russia is also strategic. Damascus wants Moscow to provide a shield against the US pressure, which has been pilling up over the past few years. Under the bipolar mantle of the Cold War, both the Soviet Union and the US sought regional clients to enhance their position vis-Ã -vis the other in a global struggle for world supremacy. In such a climate, the fall of a client state was considered as a set-back for the patron. Small powers benefited a lot from this system, wherein most had found a shelter under the wings of one of the superpowers. By leaning eastward, Syria believes that it can replay the alignment game of the Cold-War and hence ensure survival.
Russia’s rising power is making itself felt on the most of the world’s problems today and Syria might well be trying to benefit from the widening schism between Moscow and Washington in order to protect itself – a legitimate move in a turbulent world politics.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Reemergence of Russia as superpower

Reemergence of Russia as a superpower
By Musa Khan Jalalzai

Russia's resurgence as a strategic actor and a new cold war player is widely discussed in the United Kingdom and Asia. Russia Prime Minister Vladimir Putin during his presidency made unbelievable economic and military progress. In UK intellectual circle, the resurgence of Russia in the international arena is considered a big issue of the near future. Russia's new policy direction - and particularly its nascent interest in alternative energy - is important because Russia is such a large energy exporter.
The re-emergence of Russia on international arena and more importantly Putin's intellectual approach to developing a foreign policy, has presented an issue for the world to think about.
Russia under the leadership of President Putin outlined a new policy for central Asian region. President Medvedev has recently enunciated five principles of Russian foreign policy. A number of contradictions are built into them. Medvedev, unlike Putin, is more willing to try to implement changes in world policy. He believes there is a lot to change.
During his Presidency, Vladimir Putin took several actions indicating that the country plans to reclaim its position as a military power on a global scale. Russian bombers were back on long range patrols, and a submarine crew recently planted a Russian flag on the seabed beneath the North Pole. During the Putin years, Russian economy saw the nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increase 6 fold, climbing from 22nd to 11th largest in the world. In 2007, Russia's GDP exceeded that of 1990.
The trip of President Medvedev to the G20 summit is expected to deliver any breakthroughs on troubled U.S.-Russian relations, as little movement is likely before current U.S. President George W. Bush leaves office in January.
On the war in Georgia, US and European leaders immediately condemned Moscow for flouting established borders. The challenge facing the next US president will be to manage Russia's emerging role as a powerful and alluring alternative to the West.
'Russian leaders are trying to wield the language of stability, humanitarianism, and prosperity. If the rift between Russia and the West widens, it will not produce a repeat of the Cold War. Instead, it will create a new and delicate rivalry over the ability of each political system to explain its own inconsistencies to its citizens and the wider world. Military sources say, Russia has around 5700 active nuclear warheads. Poland will contain just 10 interceptor missiles. The most likely strategic purpose of the missile defense programme is to mop up any Russian or Chinese missiles which had not been destroyed during a pre-emptive US attack.
The politics of Missile defense has recently become one of the most acute problems of international politics. Plans by the United States to deploy a third position area in Eastern Europe for its national missile defense system triggered a sharp reaction from Russia, which threatened to take countermeasures.
Russia's strategic forces have conducted regular test launches of Soviet-built ballistic missiles to check their performance. The military has repeatedly extended the lifetime of Soviet-built weapons as the government lacks the funds to replace them quickly with new weapons. The basic factor of mutual distrust between Russia and US increased readiness of their strategic nuclear potentials in line with the task of mutual nuclear deterrence.
The U.S. is trying to convince Russia that the new missile defense system will not be directed against it. But Russia considers it as a military threat to its national defense. However, statements like this run counter to Washington's doctrinal approaches to its defense policy. Russia has repeatedly made it clear that Russia's territory allows for the building of a missile defense system with a structure that can best ward off missile threats from the south. A missile defense system can be effective only if it is capable of hitting a target at various phases of the trajectory of a missile or warhead.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates in one of his statements rejected a Russian suggestion that both countries scrap plans to place missile systems in Eastern Europe. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in a televised interview with French journalists broadcast that Moscow was willing to reconsider deploying Iskander missiles in its westernmost region of Kaliningrad if Washington did not place 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a missile-tracking radar in the Czech Republic
Barack Obama, immediately, after his election as US President said it would be prudent to "explore the possibility of deploying missile defense systems in Europe," in light of what he called active efforts by Iran to develop ballistic missiles as well as nuclear weapons.
Russia remains one of the world's leading military powers. It is second only to the United States in nuclear weapons, and Russia remains the strongest power in Europe and Asia in terms of its conventional ground, air, and naval forces. For more than a decade, Russian leaders have struggled to formulate security and defense policies that protect Russia's borders and project Russia's influence.
After attaining broad macro economic stability and high growth likely to exceed both India and China in 2008 as per the IMF, the focus is now on using the oil windfall to build and modernize infrastructure and create an environment conducive to business, particularly the non commodities exports.
There are still many financial crises in Russia but debates are under way on the growing Russian economic power. Today practically all socio-political groups and blocs in Russia are discussing the country's future along with opportunities of economical growth, but are suggesting very different ways of solving existing problems. On the Russian political and military influence, Moscow-based military expert Vladimir Mukhin says Russia has lost much of its position in Central Asia since then. But Russia still has troops and bases in Central Asia in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and in Kazakhstan.
However, analysts in Tajikistan analysts say that merely strengthening its military presence in Central Asia doesn't necessarily mean Russia's influence there will rise. On November 11, Russian President began a working visit to Kazakhstan to discuss the security situation in the region. The CSTO comprises Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Netanyahu calls Russia an important Superpower

Netanyahu calls Russia an important Superpower Voice of America News editor by Robert Berger Feb. 15, 2010

Israel's leader is heading to Russia to discuss an escalating crisis over Iran's nuclear program.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is calling for tougher sanctions on Iran.
He was speaking to his Cabinet before heading to Russia, which has been reluctant to impose sanctions because of its strong business and military ties with Iran.

Mr. Netanyahu said Russia is an important "superpower" and an important friend of the state of Israel, and that Iran will top the agenda in his talks there. He said he would express Israel's view that "strong pressure" must be imposed on Teheran.
Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. But last week, it began stepping up the enrichment of uranium to a higher grade, and Israel said the move is further proof that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.
The Iranian nuclear threat has aroused deep concern in Jerusalem because Iran's president has threatened to wipe Israel "off the map." Israeli leaders have repeatedly warned that they will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, and that if international diplomacy fails, Israel might launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

Israeli media said Mr. Netanyahu would press Russia not to sell sophisticated weapons to Iran. Israel is especially concerned about Russian anti-aircraft missiles that would improve Iran's defenses against a possible Israeli attack.

Washington Acknowledges Russia as a Superpower May 2007

Washington Acknowledges Russia as Superpower

U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe held special hearings devoted to Russia on Thursday. The Commission came to a conclusion which is flattering to Russia: the latter is returning to the international arena as an influential political and economic power. At the same time, the Commission noted this process is accompanied by exacerbating differences between the U.S. and Russia. Moscow is really confident of its powers and does not intend to change its policy. Russian President Vladimir Putin said in Luxembourg on Thursday that the West “has few instruments of influence on Russia left”.

The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission) held special hearings devoted to Russia on Thursday. The chief speaker, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried, said: “Russia has restored its position of a large political and economic force recently.” At the same time, Washington acknowledges the consequences of that process, negative for it: “Russia’s strengthening has been accompanied by a cooldown in its relations with the U.S.”.

The U.S. is concerned about Moscow’s moratorium on the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, disagreements about deploying missile-defense elements in Eastern Europe and about the state of democracy in Russia.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to Western reporters in Luxembourg. He said that the West now “has very few instruments of influence on Russia, which became independent both militarily and economically.”

Apparently, both Washington and Moscow understand the current situation in their bilateral relations will remain unchanged for some time. Mikhail Margelov, chairman of the Federation Council’s International Affairs Committee of Russia, said the U.S.-Russia relations can be improved, but not with the current authorities. “A new cycle might begin only after 2008, when both the U.S. and Russia will have new presidents,” the Russian politician said.