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