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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rice to Discuss Missiles, Kosovo

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will grapple with a Kremlin that rejects U.S. views on missile defense, Kosovo and the course of Russian democracy when she visits Moscow this week.

What is unclear is how much leverage she has to influence President Vladimir Putin, who has made no secret of his dislike of U.S. foreign policy in Iraq and elsewhere, his mistrust of U.S. missile defense plans in Europe and his desire for Russia to play a bigger role on the world stage.

Late last week, Rice said the U.S.-Russian relationship was complicated by a rollback in democratic reforms in Russia and the Putin government's treatment of neighboring countries.

"On many things we have done very well, but the fact is that on some others it's been a difficult period," Rice told the U.S. Senate Thursday.

Rice is scheduled to arrive Monday and meet Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday.

A major challenge for Rice will be quelling Russian anger at U.S. plans to deploy 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic from 2012 to help shield Europe from possible missile attack from countries like Iran. Russian-NATO talks on the issue failed to make headway late last week, although the Czech Republic said it believed Moscow was showing a willingness to negotiate. (Story, Page 4.)

Another problem awaiting Rice is Moscow's opposition to a draft United Nations Security Council resolution providing for effective independence for Kosovo. The Foreign Ministry said Saturday that it could not accept parts of the U.S.-backed resolution, without saying to which parts Moscow objected.

Russia's UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said Russian diplomats would not touch the draft until Rice's visit to Moscow was over. "Everyone is waiting for the talks' outcome in order to review the situation and see what can be done in the Security Council," Churkin told Vesti-24 television.

Rice's trip will be her first extended talks with Russian leaders since Putin stunned the West with a harsh critique of U.S. policies in a Feb. 10 speech in Munich. Among other things, Putin accused the United States of making the world a more dangerous place by pursuing policies designed to make it "one single master." In an apparent allusion to the U.S.-led war in Iraq, he said, "Unilateral actions have not resolved conflicts but made them worse." The speech has left analysts wondering whether Moscow has decided to be less cooperative with Washington, which wants Russian acquiescence, if not support, on issues from reining in Iran's nuclear program to promoting independence for Kosovo.

Analysts said Putin's rhetoric reflected Russia's expansive view of its own power, swelled in part by oil wealth, and its perception of a United States diminished by the war in Iraq. "President Putin thinks that the United States has been weakened by Iraq and that he has been strengthened by recent events and high-priced oil and he is trying to put Russia back on the international map," said Richard Holbrooke, a former U.S. ambassador to the UN.

Clifford Gaddy, a Brookings Institution scholar, said the United States has "zero leverage" with the Kremlin. "The only leverage we ever had on the Russians was the financial dependence of Russia in the late 1980s and in the 1990s," he said. "With the current oil boom, that is gone."

Reuters, MT, AP