Condoleezza Rice thinks that Russia has Cold War mentality
Russian attitudes are locked in the past, that is why the United States is perplexed by the current fracas with Russia over a planned U.S. missile system in Europe.
"We want a 21st Century partnership with Russia, but at times, Russia seems to think and act in the zero-sum terms of another era," Rice said, referring to the suspicions and territorial ambitions of the Cold War.
The top U.S. diplomat spoke as U.S. relations with its old Cold War foe have hit a modern low. The United States is at odds with Moscow over matters inside and outside Russia's borders. The missile dispute pushed the simmering problems and resentments into a hot zone in recent weeks, with Russian President Vladimir Putin seeming to liken U.S. President George W. Bush's foreign policy to that of Germany's Third Reich and generals and diplomats talking darkly of a new Cold War.
Rice had a brittle exchange with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov over the missile plan on Wednesday, but sought Thursday to put the dispute in a more academic, historical context.
The West wants a strong Russia, but strong by modern democratic measures, Rice said in an address accepting an award for promoting better U.S.-German relations. The award, and the setting in the city where Josef Stalin met Harry Truman in 1945, evoked both the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Rice's remarks referred to a laundry list of U.S. complaints about post-Soviet Russia, including democratic retrenchment under Putin.
"Democratic institutions and an open society are not a source of weakness," Rice said. "Nor is freedom of speech and freedom of the press just a nuisance."
She said the United States will respect Russia and air differences honorably.
"In this regard we find Russia's recent missile diplomacy difficult to understand," Rice said.
Putin said Thursday that tests of new Russian missiles were a response to the planned deployment of U.S. missile defense installations and other forces in Europe.
In a clear reference to the United States, he harshly criticized "imperialism" in global affairs and warned that Russia will strengthen its military potential to maintain a global strategic balance.
"It wasn't us who initiated a new round of arms race," Putin said when asked about Russia's missile tests at a news conference after talks in the Kremlin with Greek President Karolos Papoulias.
Putin and other Russian officials have repeatedly rejected U.S. assurances that the planned missile defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic are meant to counter a potential threat from nations such as Iran and pose no danger to Russia.
Putin described Tuesday's tests of a new ballistic missile capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads and a new cruise missile as part of the Russian response to the planned deployment of new U.S. military bases and missile defense sites in ex-Soviet satellites in Central and Eastern Europe.