President of the East-West Bridges Fund, Russian Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the United States between 1992 and 1993
US Secretary of State Colin Powell's recent visit to Moscow attracted a great deal of attention from the political elite and the press. It received extensive coverage, but much of it was at odds with how the talks proceeded and the real state of Russo-US relations.
I would like to emphasise that the negotiations were honest, lengthy and constructive. They were a dialogue between partners, and not opponents, rivals or adversaries. Powell's numerous meetings in the Russian capital can rather be described as an attempt to identify the problems and differences in Russo-American relations. Therefore, it would be incorrect to say that bilateral relations remain a captive to cold war attitudes. However, this was exactly the kind of statement that could often be found in media reports.
Objectively, there is a problem in Moscow-Washington interaction: the level of immediate trust between the two countries has fallen. An atmosphere of trust appeared between the two countries, especially their leaders, immediately after the tragic events of September 11, 2001. However, it is now undergoing a serious trial.
The two countries have agreed to adhere to a certain system of values; however, practice has shown that this is not quite the case. America, for example, does not like some internal political developments in Russia. Moreover, Moscow often gives evasive answers to US questions, in particular about Chechnya, and our closest neighbours - Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova. This is, perhaps, because it does not know the answers either.
Sometimes these answers are contradictory. With regard to Georgia, for example, we say that we can only withdraw our military bases from that country in 10-11 years because we do not want to repeat the mistakes of our withdrawal from Germany, which is a fair point. Besides, we do not have the funds for the withdrawal. Nevertheless, when the US offers us funding, we immediately exclaim: there can be no talk about money, no bargaining. True, this problem should be addressed by Russia and Georgia alone. In my opinion, Russia should try to make its policy sound less contradictory to its American partners.
Russia also has questions for the Americans. We suspect them of seeking to establish a cordon sanitaire around Russia under the guise of different words and assurances. We are concerned over the bases in Central Asia, how long they will be there, the possible deployment of US bases in Georgia and Azerbaijan, which the Americans deny. America's task is to provide convincing answers to these questions.