Cold War rivals seek to repair soured relations: A spy scandal and the tussle over Bosnia has brought distrust, writes Tony Barber

RUSSIA and the United States scrambled yesterday to calm storms in their relationship that are threatening the fragile trust built up since the Soviet Union's collapse in December 1991. A spy scandal, a tussle over Bosnia, a dispute over influence in East Europe and misunderstandings over the pace and nature of internal Russian reforms are some of the reasons why US-Russian relations are entering a turbulent period.

President Boris Yeltsin's spokesman, Vyacheslav Kostikov, indicated that there was serious displeasure in Moscow at the way the US authorities released the news on Tuesday that a senior CIA operative and his wife had been arrested on charges of spying for Moscow since 1985. 'Returning to the psychology of the Cold War and whipping up distrust and a new wave of spy mania would contradict the ideas of an international partnership for peace,' he said.

Official Russian statements hinted that the Clinton administration might have disclosed the spy scandal this week because Moscow had stolen a march over Washington in the search for a Bosnian settlement. The deployment of Russian troops in Sarajevo, announced without prior consultation with President Bill Clinton, has in effect ruled out the possibility of independent Nato military action in Serb-controlled areas of Bosnia and undermined a major element of US strategy in the Balkans.

Russia's Foreign Minister, Andrei Kozyrev, suggested it was possible to limit the damage from the espionage affair, one of the biggest such scandals in US history. 'I rule out any breakdown of our partnership,' he told reporters in the Polish city of Krakow.

The White House spokeswoman, Dee Dee Myers, also sought to play down the scandal, saying: 'It is in our national interest to maintain a relationship with Russia. We would rather see them be an economic ally than a Cold War adversary.'

In all likelihood, the Americans and Russians will agree to call it quits over the spy affair, since both sides know full well that the end of the Cold War did not mean an end to espionage. But the Bosnian crisis has provided ample evidence this month that all is not well in the US-Russian relationship.

As Nato drew up its ultimatum to the Bosnian Serbs to withdraw their heavy artillery from the Sarajevo hills or face air strikes, Mr Clinton tried to reach Mr Yeltsin on the telephone to discuss the West's policy. The Washington-Moscow 'hotline' has been made virtually foolproof since it was introduced after the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, but Mr Clinton inexplicably could not contact the Russian President.

A second, still more curious incident involved Russia's Defence Minister, Pavel Grachev, who let Russian television cameras film him making a telephone call to his US counterpart, William Perry. During the call, Mr Grachev invited the US to join Russia in sending peace-keeping forces to Bosnia.

It was a provocative line of conversation, since Mr Grachev knew that the Americans had set strict conditions for dispatching troops to Bosnia and were none too happy with the way Russia had intervened in Sarajevo last week. Mr Grachev's unsubtle attempt to taunt the Clinton administration ended with the telephone going dead at Mr Perry's end.

On other fronts, Mr Yeltsin diminished the impact of Mr Clinton's visit to Moscow last month when, within days of the US President's departure, he let his most prominent reformers resign from his government. Mr Clinton, who had spoken enthusiastically of Russian progress towards democracy and market-based reforms, was made to look as though he was badly out of touch with Russian politics.

The US and Russia have also squared off on the question of Nato's expansion to include Poland, the Czech Republic and other new democracies in East Europe. Russia opposes Nato's expansion, but the alliance does not want to let Moscow have a veto on its policies.

Leading article, page 19

Russia's sun sets, page 21

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent