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Thursday, 18 January, 2001, 15:30 GMT
Analysis: The road back to suspicion?
Pavel Borodin
Pavel Borodin's arrest will worsen Russian-US relations
By Russian affairs analyst Stephen Dalziel

The arrest in New York of Russian politician Pavel Borodin is only the latest in a series of incidents which have soured relations between Washington and Moscow.

Tension has risen over several episodes in the dying months of the Clinton administration - and incoming president George W Bush has already annoyed the Russians, by claiming that much of the last decade's US aid to Russia has not reached its target.

The new era in US politics could be marked by a return to many of the old ways of hostility and suspicion in US-Russian relations

Moscow appears to be genuinely shocked and angry about the arrest of Mr Borodin.

He had gone to the US in his capacity as the State Secretary of the Union State of Russia and Belarus, to attend the inauguration of Mr Bush as the 43rd President of the United States.

But when he stepped off his plane in New York, he was arrested under a warrant issued by the Swiss Prosecutor's office.

The Swiss want to question Mr Borodin over the issuing of contracts to two Swiss firms for the refurbishment of the Kremlin and other government buildings in Moscow.

George W Bush
Megaphone diplomacy: Bush has already angered Russians
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the Borodin case, the Americans' decision to arrest him serves to underline the poor state of relations between Washington and Moscow on the eve of the Bush presidency.

Late last year came the first conviction for espionage of a US citizen in Moscow since the 1970s.

Edmond Pope was sentenced for spying to 20 years in a strict regime labour camp.

Spy trial

The Americans claimed that the charges had been trumped up, which seemed to be supported by a number of aspects about the case.

Almost immediately after Mr Pope's sentencing, he was pardoned and freed by the Russian President, Vladimir Putin.

Clinton and Putin
Head to head: The two leaders saw relations decline
It is not the only issue to have dented trust between the two capitals, which for so many years faced each other as the world's two superpowers.

America has accused the Russians of putting tactical nuclear weapons into the enclave of Kaliningrad - rumours strenuously denied by the Russians.

The Kremlin is angered, too, by the announcement by the Bush administration that it intends to go ahead with the creation of a missile defence system.

Bush attack

Moscow says that this violates the terms of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty which Washington and Moscow signed in 1972.

Mr Bush, meanwhile, seemed determined to show Moscow that he means to conduct tough business, with his remarks in an interview with The New York Times last weekend.

Russians of all political persuasions want to be allowed "to fashion" their own future, without outside interference

He complained that, under the Clinton administration, too much of the $2.3m of US aid sent to Russia since 1991 had not been spent on improving democracy and the market economy, the purposes for which it was intended.

And he said also that it was difficult for the US, "to fashion Russia".

That remark was at best careless.

Russians of all political persuasions want to be allowed "to fashion" their own future, without outside interference.

The Russian Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, suggested that, if Mr Bush wanted to conduct a dialogue with Moscow, he would be better to do it directly, rather than through the newspapers.

But the combination of missiles, spies, Mr Borodin's arrest and Mr Bush's comments suggests that the new era in US politics could be marked by a return to many of the old ways of hostility and suspicion in US-Russian relations.

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See also:

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