Thursday, February 7, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 88



Speaker: Russia, America ready for new partnership

By Ken Fountain
Senior Staff Writer

After a half-century during which the United States and Russia were bitter enemies, followed by a decade that saw the beginnings of an uneasy
friendship, the two countries are now poised to begin a new partnership to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Ken Fountain/The Daily Cougar

James Collins, former U.S. ambassador to the Russian Federation, speaks about the relationship between the United States and Russia at a
speech Wednesday.

So said James Collins, former U.S. ambassador to the Russian Federation, in a Houston speech Wednesday.

"Many believe that Sept. 11 has begun one of those tectonic global realignments that, from time to time, reshape the world's geopolitics, and
become the boundaries between historic eras," he said.

Collins said this new era has caused Russia and its neighbor states, after several years of being somewhat on the margins of U.S. foreign policy,
to "reclaim a central place in our international calculus."

"Russia today is in a time of critical change and decision, and remains very much a society in search of itself," he said.

After the disintegration of the former Soviet Union in 1991, Russia throughout the '90s experienced a painful transition from a communist state to
a market economy, including an economic recession, lurching economic and political reform, an unprecedented crime wave and a slide into
geopolitical weakness. "But now as we begin a new century, it is essential that we absorb the reality that the decade of the '90s too is past," he
said. "Today, new opportunities are emerging, a new generation of Russian leadership has given that country a new sense of purpose and
direction, and a new American president has called for movement beyond the Cold War."

Collins said that, under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin, Russia is experiencing a new sense of internal stability, helped in large part by
three years of sustained economic growth and meaningful political and economic reform.

One of Putin's key priorities, Collins said, is ensuring that Russia regains some of the international authority of the former Soviet Union without
alarming other countries.

Last year's terrorist attacks had a "profound effect" on the tenor of the American/Russian relationship, Collins said. Putin's immediate backing and
continuing support of President Bush's campaign against terrorists, despite some dissention from within Russia, along with Russian popular
support, has allayed many Westerners' misgivings, Collins said.

But there are still some dangers, he added.

"The huge disparity between the wealth and power of the United States and that of Russia complicates relations across the board," he said.

This has played a large part in Russia's resistance to Bush's plans to develop a missile defense system, he said.

"The economy is still burdened by a monumentally crippling bureaucratic system, corruption and criminal activity," he said.

Putin's commitment to democratic principles is also somewhat shaky, Collins said. Russian media outlets which report critically on the economic
and political spheres often find themselves under attack by the government.

He said America and the West can help Russia make continued progress by backing its entry into the World Trade Organization, giving it a
stronger advisory role with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and increasing trade partnerships.

Most importantly, he said, the American and Russian people must put aside Cold War stereotypes that prevent the countries from enjoying a
normal relationship.

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