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Russian, US ministers try to halt upsetting of bilateral relations

August 12, 2013, 21:28 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara

MOSCOW, August 12 (Itar-Tass) - After the call-off of US President Barack Obama’s visit to Moscow, the Russian-American meeting in the two-plus-two format became the last ditch effort to rescue the bilateral relations. The ministerial meeting (Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Secretary of State John Kerry, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel) was held in Washington on August 9. The leading Russian media, politicians and experts continue vigorously discussing the results of the meeting.

Newspaper headlines attest to this: “Russia and US show readiness for cooperation even without the summit”, “Russian and US foreign and defence ministers smoothing out relations.”

At the same time the Russian press notes that at least five important documents will remain unsigned because of Barack Obama’s refusal to meet with Vladimir Putin in September. Among them are the agreements on trade and investment, on fighting drug trafficking and on the nuclear sphere. The newspaper The Kommersant, making a reference to a source in the Russian Foreign Ministry, publishes the titles of these documents: “The Statement on the Development of Bilateral Cooperation”, “The Statement on the Increase of Trade and Investment Ties”, “The Statement on Pooling Efforts in the Fight against Illegal Narcotics Trafficking”, the agreement “On Amending the 1987 Treaty between the USSR and the US on Establishing the Nuclear Risk Reduction Centre” and “On Cooperation in Research and Development in the Nuclear and Energy Areas”. The destiny of these documents will now be decided by the heads of the defence and foreign agencies of the two countries.

Academician Sergei Rogov, the director of the Institute of the US and Canadian Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in an interview with Itar-Tass, compared relations between Russia and the US to cycling: “As long as a cyclist spins the pedals, he moves on; when he stops, he may fall.”

The ministers, rather than the presidents, are now called upon “to spin the pedals,” that is, to advance the bilateral relations, so as not to derail them.

Vladimir Andrianov, department director of the Bank for Foreign Economic Activity (VNESHEKONOMBANK), said in an interview with Itar-Tass that the key questions of bilateral relations are in the realm of politics. The economy functions under its own laws, independent of politics. Suffice it to recall the times when the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission operated (the bilateral commission for economic cooperation headed by Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and US vice president Albert Gore).Business people of the two countries then held forums, invested in major joint projects. In September, the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry was going to hold a Russian-American business forum, to time it for Barack Obama’s visit to Moscow. Obama cancelled his visit, so there will be no forum.

Vladimir Andrianov said there are few American businesses in Russia now. “Representation of US financial structures in the banking area decreases. There are several American investment projects in Russia, for instance, in realty. US business invests in several innovation projects in Skolkovo. But this is too little.” “Russia and the US “should look for the areas of joint interests, rather than difference. This task has now been undertaken by Sergei Lavrov and John Kerry and by Sergei Shoigu and Chuck Hagel,” the expert notes.

Academician Sergei Rogov, in his turn, said that “the weakness of Russian-American relations lies in the fact that the economic aspect of relations is very limited. The trade turnover between Russia and the US is one-tenth of Russia’s trade with the European Union and is less than half that with China. On a global scale, it is precisely economic relations that lead to interdependence.

The director of the Institute of the US and Canadian Studies said: “Our relations will be fragile and subject to various political circumstantial considerations unless the economic mainstay of our relations is created.”

As to long-standing differences between the stands of Russia and the US on the deployment of the anti-ballistic missile system of the North Atlantic Alliance in Europe, some prominent Russian experts hold that the problem has been blown out of proportion. Thus, Igor Ashurbeili, chairman of the Interdepartmental Expert Aero-Space Defence Council, told ltar-Tass: “Deployment of NATO anti-ballistic missile system in Europe is a factor that is unpleasant but not critical to Russia. The Russian armed forces have a full range of technology and equipment to neutralize this negative factor.” Academician Sergei Rogov goes along with him: “I, just as many other experts, foresee that Americans did not have and will not have in the next decade a strategic anti-ballistic missile system that would threaten Russia’s forces,” he said.

The Russian media express confidence that Russia and the US will be able to overcome the present “pause in relations”, as US President Barrack Obama put it. The newspaper The Komsomolskaya Pravda targeting the young readership says this confidence is confirmed by reconciliatory statements by Sergei Lavrov and John Kerry that they are going to overcome differences as adults do.