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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S.-Russia Chill Revives Cold War Memories

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev won a Nobel Peace Prize for helping thaw relations between Moscow and Washington. Now he is warning that the two countries could slide into a new Cold War.

After over a decade of upbeat relations between Moscow and Washington, the mood in the two capitals has turned sour, said one Western diplomat.

The adversarial attitudes of the Cold War have been resurfacing everywhere, from the statements of politicians to the views of people on the streets and the choice of villains in television dramas.

"Calls to cool down or even toughen the relations between our countries have become everyday fare in Washington," Gorbachev wrote last month in Rossiiskaya Gazeta. "In our country we also have people who -- some with alarm and others with relish -- are bracing themselves for a renewal of the Cold War in some sort of new format."

The irony is that on the business front, the mood could not be further removed from the Cold War. Nearly every month, a new Russian company lists on a New York exchange, U.S. banks are putting up their signs on Moscow's streets and investors are clambering to get their hands on Russian stocks.

"There is a sour mood that you will see in Washington about the relationship and you know that you will find the same view [in Moscow]," the Western diplomat said. That mood could make for an awkward few days in July when President Vladimir Putin hosts U.S. President George W. Bush and other world leaders for the Group of Eight summit in St. Petersburg.

On April 18, U.S. Ambassador William Burns was called to the Foreign Ministry. Moscow was upset because, it said, a Washington think tank had given Chechen separatists a platform to voice their violent philosophy. U.S. ambassadors rarely get that treatment, and the incident illustrated the new tension.

There is no shortage of irritants between Moscow and Washington, and analysts say there is a unifying theme behind them: Russia, buoyed by record prices for the oil it exports, is no longer prepared to play the junior partner.

The attitude is: "It is not us that need the rest of the world, it is them that need us," said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of the journal Russia in Global Affairs.

Asked on a visit to Moscow late last month if Russia was chafing at U.S. policy, the U.S. State Department's No. 3 official, Nicholas Burns, said, "I did not hear anything like that from the last two days from any Russian officials."

But late last year, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged the United States to take steps to arrest what he said was its declining relationship with Moscow.

More and more Russians see the United States as a rival. A recent television episode of "Sea Devils" showed Russian special forces rushing to stop the U.S. Navy from stealing a strategic missile.

In a survey conducted in December by state-controlled VTsIOM, 30 percent named the United States as the main threat to Russia's national security. China was second with 17 percent.

Issues That Put a Chill in Relations



Feb. 9: President Vladimir Putin invites leaders of militant group Hamas for talks in Moscow after they sweep Palestinian elections. The move breaks with the U.S. and European policy of isolating Hamas unless it rejects violence and accepts Israel's right to exist.

March 5: Influential U.S. think tank the Council on Foreign Relations says in a report that U.S.-Russian relations are "heading in the wrong direction" as the Kremlin retreats from democracy. In Moscow, many politicians see the report as patronizing and meddling in Russia's affairs.

March 20: Putin congratulates Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko on his re-election. Minutes later Washington, which calls Lukashenko Europe's last dictator, demands a new election, saying the vote was held "in a climate of fear."

March 24: A Pentagon report says Moscow gave intelligence to Saddam Hussein's administration shortly after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said the report was "complete rubbish."

March 29: Putin says Washington is stalling Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization. A trade deal with the United States is the biggest hurdle left to Russian membership.

April 19: Washington says Moscow should cancel the sale of tactical missiles to Iran and stop helping Iran build a nuclear power station. The Foreign Ministry says it will not be told what it can do. Also, Russia remains unconvinced about the U.S. push for sanctions against Iran.

-- Reuters