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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rice Rejects Talk of Cold War

Arriving for a visit clouded by political tension and uncertainty, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Monday that it was not an easy time for U.S.-Russian relations but insisted that the uneasiness did not amount to a new Cold War.

Rice will hold a series of closed-door talks Tuesday with President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Security Council chief Igor Ivanov. She will attend a joint news conference with Lavrov in the evening.

Both Russian and U.S. officials were unusually reluctant to give further details of the visit. The U.S. Embassy said only that Rice had arrived Monday afternoon.

The Foreign Ministry would only confirm the news conference with Lavrov. A ministry spokesman would not even comment on a report by Kommersant that Lavrov and Rice were dining together Monday evening.

The visit comes at a time that has been dubbed the lowest point in Russian-U.S. relations since the days of the Cold War. Rice objected to that description on the flight to Moscow.

"I don't throw around terms like 'new Cold War,'" Rice told journalists traveling with her on the plane, news agencies reported.

Comparisons to Soviet times have no basis whatsoever, she said.

The most prominent dispute that Rice will have to deal with surrounds U.S. plans to build a missile defense system to shield Europe and itself from possible missile attacks from countries like Iran. Another divisive topic is the Serbian province of Kosovo, which would effectively gain independence under a United Nations Security Council resolution strongly opposed by Russia.

Rice said on the plane that she would try to ease Moscow's concerns on both issues.

She also will discuss Iran's nuclear program and the Middle East peace process, the U.S. Department of State said in a statement.

Rice last week indicated that she might raise U.S. concerns about the state of democracy in Russia.

A Federation Council senator said Monday, however, that he believed Rice had come "not to criticize Russia" but to win support for the missile shield plans and to urge the Kremlin to lift its recent moratorium on the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe.

Vasily Likhachyov, deputy head of the senate's International Affairs Committee, also said he expected Rice to seek to "define the trends that our country will follow on the international scene" after the presidential election next year, Interfax reported.

Putin has expressed his unease with U.S. foreign policy in recent speeches, accusing the United States of seeking to impose its will on the rest of the world. He shocked the West in February with a speech in Munich that sharply criticized Washington's foreign policy. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said after the speech it revived his memories of the Cold War and he cautioned against sliding back into that era.

Putin caused further irritations by drawing an apparent comparison between the United States and Nazi Germany in his Victory Day address on Red Square last week. The Foreign Ministry later sought to assure U.S. Embassy officials that the president had not intended to compare U.S. policies to those of the Third Reich, an embassy spokeswoman said.

Cranking up the tensions a notch, U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman on Monday assailed a Russian plan to increase natural gas imports from Turkmenistan, saying it threatened Europe's energy security.

While Rice acknowledged strains in the relationship, she said talk of its deterioration was overblown and obscured many areas where the two nations cooperate, including on reining in nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea.

The recent political tension with Russia needs to be put into a wider context, she said. "If you look at the actual ... facts on the ground and you look at the level of cooperation that we have had on North Korea, on Iran, if you look at the WTO agreement that we've signed with Russia ... it just doesn't accord with some of the rhetoric that does sometimes come out," she said.