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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Is a Demanding Spouse

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The honeymoon in U.S.-Russian relations that began after the Sept. 11 attacks seems to be over. Tensions are growing in a number of areas: The Kremlin is being officially criticized for actions in Chechnya and for closing TV6; recent meetings on nuclear arms reductions and nonproliferation are reported to have been acrimonious, etc.

General Yury Baluyevsky, who led a military delegation to Washington last week, told reporters that Moscow expects Washington to sign a formal treaty solidifying nuclear arms cuts, as agreed by George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin at a summit last November. Baluyevsky also stated that Moscow wants some new agreement to restrict the planned U.S. missile defense to replace the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which the United States recently scrapped.

Putin has in turn recently expressed his concerns over U.S. plans to retain large stockpiles of warheads after the cutbacks and maybe also to keep some of the retired missiles in reserve. Washington has stated that the removed warheads may be once again loaded onto missiles if a threat reappears in the future. The Kremlin insists that the cuts should be irreversible.

The Bush administration has stated it has no intention of signing a formal treaty on the proposed arms cuts. Washington has also indicated it does not want any follow-up treaty to the ABM. Actually, the U.S. military does not yet and may not know for years to come what form its planned missile defense will take and what interceptors, involving rockets or lasers, will be deployed.

It's not known for sure whether interceptors will be deployed on land, sea or aircraft carriers. It has not yet been decided whether the missile defense will cover only U.S. territory or also its allies.

It is impossible to put any restrictions on such a vague missile defense plan and Washington clearly has no intention of trying.

Russian hopes will surely be frustrated and this could frost the emerging strategic relationship. This week, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State John Wolf came to Moscow to discuss nonproliferation, accompanied by a large delegation including officials from the Energy and Defense departments. The delegation met with Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov and it was reported that the Russian side accused the United States of undermining nonproliferation by scrapping ABM, while the U.S. side reminded Moscow that it should stop nuclear technology transfers to Iran. Although, some members of Wolf's delegation say in private that the talks were not that bad at all.

One U.S. official agreed with me that the U.S.-Russian honeymoon is over and that's good, because now it's time to get on with married life. The United States wants a serious long-term relationship with Russia and is working hard to make this happen. In marriage, one should not take the other party for granted, so now there is no place for complacency in U.S.-Russian relations.

In particular, the U.S. sees the Russia-Iran connection as a very serious matter. In recent months, during the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, it was not only Russia but also Iran that proved to be a very important U.S. ally. But the usefulness of the connection has faded and Afghanistan is beginning to promote tension instead of friendship.

The common enemy (and with it the common cause) has been obliterated, and old enmities have reemerged.

Now the United States says once again that Iran actively supports terrorism, aspires to acquisition of nukes and ballistic missiles, and is a negative influence on Middle East peace efforts.

U.S. officials state clearly that U.S.-Russian relations cannot move forward while Russia is still closely involved with Iran. Apparently, Russia will not get any trade concessions or full WTO membership while it continues to trade nuclear technology and arms with Iran.

If Putin is serious about having close relations with the West, he will have to sever relations with Iran, agree without much argument to anything Bush wants on arms control and missile defense, concede that the United States keeps agreements only as long as it believes them necessary, and accept U.S. troops in Central Asia and maybe soon on Russian territory. Otherwise, not only the honeymoon, but also the marriage will be over.

It's not easy to be a U.S. ally, as the Europeans and Japanese know full well. Someone with experience, say British Prime Minister Tony Blair, should tell Putin what it takes to be an American mate.

Pavel Felgenhauer is an independent defense analyst.