Tensions emerge in Russia's friendship with 'imperious' US

Colin Powell, the United States Secretary of State, issued an unusually blunt criticism of the state of Russian democracy yesterday amid signs of a deepening chill between the two allies in George Bush's "war on terror".

There were many protestations of enduring friendship as General Powell met President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin's ornate Green Room. Mr Putin hailed progress in US-Russia nuclear disarmament and said Moscow looked forward to joining in an American-sponsored bid to put men on Mars by 2020.

Some Russian experts saw things differently after General Powell's outspoken comments in a front-page interview with the daily Izvestia. "The relationship is not at its best," said Alexander Konovalov, director of the independent Institute for Strategic Assessments. "The Americans have become increasingly messianic and want to impose their views of democracy and strategic necessity in every situation."

Only slightly mincing his words in the interview, General Powell put his finger on America's main complaints, suggesting that under Mr Putin, Russia is becoming more authoritarian and increasingly aggressive toward its former Soviet neighbours.

Although General Powell did not mention any post-Soviet states by name, he clearly had in mind recent tensions over Georgia, where the US and Russia have been tussling for influence since the collapse of the USSR. "Certain aspects [of Russian policy] toward neighbours that emerged from the former Soviet Union concern us," he wrote.

"Russia's democratic system seems not yet to have found the essential balance among the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. Political power is not yet fully tethered to law. Key aspects of civil society - free media and development of a political party system, for example - have not yet attained independent reality."

Pro-Kremlin and nationalist parties won more than two-thirds of seats in the State Duma last month, in elections that international observers called deeply flawed. The state's near-total control over the media was cited as a crucial factor in bending the result the Kremlin's way. No major opposition figure has dared to run against Mr Putin in presidential polls slated for 14 March, guaranteeing him an easy walk back to his Kremlin office for four more years.

General Powell also criticised Russia's war against the secessionist republic of Chechnya, though Washington had previously seemed to accept Moscow's contention that the conflict, which has caused tens of thousands of deaths, is part of the common global war on terrorism. After the terror attacks in the US on 11 September 2001, Mr Putin called George Bush and offered Russia's support in the global war against al-Qa'ida. But the relationship began to unravel over the US invasion of Iraq last year, and has worsened amid Bush administration criticism of Kremlin policies.

Moscow has rebuffed US demands that it withdraw Soviet-era military bases from Georgia and Moldova, and said that the troops represent legitimate Russian national interests. At the same time, the US has extended indefinitely the stay of a 400-man military presence in Georgia, ostensibly to protect the western-financed Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which is expected to begin carrying Caspian oil to world markets by next year.

"Why do the Americans think it's OK for them to plant bases all around our borders, while they feel free to criticise every Russian military movement in the former Soviet Union?" said Mr Konovalov.

Russia's Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, said at a joint press conference yesterday that Moscow takes no offence at General Powell's remarks, and that anything can be discussed "in a constructive atmosphere of openness".

But some Russian experts said it is not so much what General Powell said but the imperious cold war tone in which he said it that causes alarm.

Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleThe idea has been greeted enthusiastically by the party's MPs
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
i100(More than you think)
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML, CSS, SQL

£39000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML,...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey


Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game