US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has called for democratic reforms in Russia on a visit to Moscow during which she met President Vladimir Putin.
Ms Rice answered some radio questions in rusty Russian
Ms Rice used a Moscow radio interview to describe Russia as a "strategic partner" in the US-led war on terror.
But she accused Mr Putin of wielding too much power and called for a free and independent media in Russia.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in turn urged the US to remain "strong and democratic" on the world stage.
Mr Putin welcomed Ms Rice, a former Soviet Union expert, by saying he hoped ties with the US would remain on their current "high level".
The pair also discussed plans for US President George W Bush to visit Russia in May to mark 60 years since the end of World War II.
Interviewed earlier on Ekho Moskvy radio station, Ms Rice insisted that Russians had nothing to fear from a continuing relationship with the US.
Ms Rice insisted Russia was "not a strategic enemy".
She told listeners that the US viewed Russia as a partner in its efforts to stop terrorism, nuclear proliferation and as a key player in regional issues such as the Balkans and the Middle East.
Nevertheless, US concerns over democracy and human rights should not be ignored, Ms Rice said, and President Putin should not concentrate too much power in his own hands.
"Democratic development is needed to ensure that Russian-US relations become deeper and that Russia achieves its full potential.
"There should not be so much concentration of power just in the presidency, there needs to be an independent media... So that the Russian people can debate and decide together the democratic future of Russia."
She repeated her call for an independent media at a news conference with Mr Lavrov.
Mr Lavrov said Russia would investigate allegations of violations of press freedoms, but insisted the US provide "concrete examples".
"I am convinced that the United States, as much as Russia, wants stability in international relations and will achieve its goals on the basis of international law," Mr Lavrov said.
Ms Rice also said the US and the world would be watching the outcome of the fraud trial later this month of former Yukos oil tycoon Mikhail Khordokovsky.
"Everyone will be watching to see what the Yukos case says about the rule of law in Russia," Ms Rice said.