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2/3/04 - U.S. - RUSSIA RELATIONS - 2004-02-05

Cooperation between the United States and Russia was the focus of recent talks between Russian leaders and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says the discussions were frank and far-ranging:

"He [Mr. Powell] has made it clear that we have strategic cooperation with Russia in any number of areas. . .also that progress towards solidifying democracy in Russia is also a strategic issue for us."

Mr. Powell said Russians and Americans share basic principles of democracy and respect for human rights. That is why, he said, the U.S. is concerned about "certain developments in Russian politics and foreign policy." The exercise of political power in Russia is not fully governed by the rule of law. Russian journalists are subject to pressure by government officials. Russian and pro-Moscow Chechen security forces continue to commit serious human rights abuses in Chechnya, as do Chechen insurgents.

Secretary of State Powell said that both the U.S. and Russia have a strong interest in cooperation and face many of the same threats. Russia and the United States are allies in the fight against international terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Americans and Russians alike benefit from shared efforts to combat disease, protect the environment, and peacefully explore space.

"The path to a democratic future is not a straight one or an easy one," Mr. Powell said, but Russia has made much progress:

"When I think back over the thirty years that I have been coming to Russia, what we have seen over the last fifteen years is a remarkable transformation to a democratic system of government, where the people are able to vote and vote freely. And so I am not concerned about Russia returning to the old days of the Soviet Union, far from it."

"America's friendship with Russia, and with the Russian people," said Mr. Powell, "will not abate."