US opposition grows to friendship with Russia: Ames case gives Republicans ammunition to attack President Clinton's Moscow policy

IN A closed briefing for Russian reporters earlier this week, Yevgeny Primakov, the head of Russian intelligence, said that he was puzzled by the fuss the United States was making over the arrest of Aldrich Ames, the CIA man accused of spying for Moscow.

He suggested that the administration was using the case to punish Russia for its independent political stance in Bosnia and elsewhere, and as an excuse to cut aid to Moscow.

Mr Primakov asked why, if the US believed that 10 of its spies had been betrayed by Mr Ames and then executed, the US ambassador to Moscow, Thomas Pickering, had not asked about their fate when he made his official protest about Russian spying in the US. The suggestion that the US is exaggerating the significance of the Ames case is too cynical. But there is no doubt that the arrest of Mr Ames has crystallised opposition to the close relationship between the US and Russia.

Nor is there any sign of the impact of the scandal dying away. When Mr Ames and his wife appeared in an Alexandria court yesterday, federal prosecutors raised their estimate of the amount he was allegedly paid by the Russians to more than dollars 2.5m ( pounds 1.7m).

Opposing bail for Mrs Ames, the government said: 'Armed with any part of the more than dollars 1m in Russian funds still unaccounted for, Mrs Ames would have more than ample means to flee this country.'

A nine-page letter to Mr Ames from his alleged Russian controllers was found in his house, asking for information on CIA penetration of Russian intelligence. An FBI agent said an East European diplomat in Washington, who had supplied Mr Ames with information, had disappeared when he went home on a visit. He believed Mr Ames betrayed him.

The CIA has reopened investigation into the death of Fred Woodruff, the CIA station chief in Georgia, who was murdered a week after Mr Ames, who was by then under suspicion as a Russian agent, visited the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, last August. The shooting of Woodruff had previously been blamed on a drunken soldier.

The White House wants to limit damage done to relations with Moscow. Although the US demand that Russia withdraw all its spies in Washington was rebuffed by the Russians, the tit-for-tat expulsion of diplomats is now over. But there is no doubt that the Republicans, frustrated at their inability to find an effective line of attack against President Clinton's domestic policies, see an opportunity to damage him by saying that his partnership with Russia is coming unstuck.

A return to limited confrontation with Russia would suit institutions in Washington which flourished during the Cold War, such as the intelligence agencies and the military. All have been largely successful in protecting their post-Cold War budgets, but are unclear about their role. A former member of the CIA said even the Ames case had benefits for the agency 'because it proves there is still an enemy to be combated out there'.

Trouble for Mr Clinton has grown ever since the failure at the polls of President Boris Yeltsin's supporters in December.

This is partly because he himself oversold his Russia policy as a success which more than made up for setbacks in Bosnia, Somalia and Haiti last year. As a result, Vice- President Al Gore arrived in Moscow after the election to find that only 15 per cent of Russian voters approved the parties most friendly to the US.

The pay-off for good relations with Russia was meant to be Russian pressure on the Serbs to end the war against the Bosnian Muslims. But when the Russians finally sent troops to Sarajevo last month, it seemed rather to provide a figleaf for the Serbs to withdraw or hand over their heavy weapons without appearing to cave in to Nato pressure. The Russian presence will also lock in place the present balance of power on the ground to the advantage of the Bosnian Serbs.

There was never a strong constituency in Washington for aid to Russia.

The Ames case will make it difficult to get money from Congress in future. A more combative Russia is not the Soviet Union reborn, but Mr Primakov is right in believing that the re-emergence of the Russian threat is politically convenient for many in Washington.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £550 - £650

£550 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Traded Credit Risk - Investmen...

Data Insight Manager - Marketing

£32000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based o...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux, Redhat, Solaris, SAN, Puppet

£55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer C#, WPF,BLL, MSMQ, SQL, GIT, SQ...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf