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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Democracy and Terrorism at Top of Rice's Agenda

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wants to tie Russia closer to the West with trade incentives and is expected to offer only tempered criticism of its eroding democracy during a two-day trip to Moscow this week.

The former Soviet specialist will visit Moscow to shore up a deal meant to stop militants from stealing Russian nuclear material while stemming what former Secretary of State Colin Powell called Russia's democratic backsliding.

With many Russians suspicious that Washington wants to curb their country's development and influence abroad, Rice said she would stress the benefits for the Russian economy and its relations with the West if it improves its democratic record.

"My message there will be that a democratic and vibrant and prosperous Russia is in everyone's interests," said Rice, who was scheduled to arrive in Moscow late Tuesday for her first trip to Russia as the top U.S. diplomat.

One of Washington's main difficulties in Europe is "to find a relationship with Russia that can bring Russia west so that Russia continues its progress toward a more democratic and open and free market society," Rice told a conference of U.S. newspaper editors.

Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said last week that he was worried about Russian nuclear material being stolen but wanted the Bush administration to strike a balance with Moscow. "Even as relations with Europe are improving, tensions continue in the U.S.-Russian relationship. Russia's retreat from democracy at home and its attempts to influence elections abroad have raised considerable concern," the Republican senator said at a committee hearing.

The U.S. administration "has a difficult road ahead ... to reinvigorate democratic principles in Russia while maintaining strong bilateral cooperation in the war on terrorism," he said.

Meanwhile, a Russian diplomat said U.S. criticism over democracy is firing some Russian lawmakers' suspicions that Washington wants to limit Russia's standing abroad, making it harder to win cooperation on military issues.

"Suspicion is there, and we have to work very deliberately to move away from the Cold War legacy," the diplomat said.

 Reporters Without Borders on Monday appealed to Rice to raise the issue of press freedom during her visit, The Associated Press reported.