US Secretary of State Colin Powell arrived in Russia January 25.
For two days of his visit in Moscow Mr. Powell plans to have meetings with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Minister of Defense Sergey Ivanov, State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov, with business circles and students. Meeting with President Putin is also on Mr. Powell’s schedule.
“We are preparing for positive interesting conversation", said Deputy Head of the Russian President Administration Sergey Prikhodko on the eve of Mr. Powell’s visit. According to him, the issues for discussion will be “Iran, Iraq, preparing the summit of the Great 8 countries, the Middle East and developing cooperation between Russia and the US”.
These issues have traditionally been on the agenda. However, this visit of Colin Powell to Russia is far from routine (for his 3 years on office the Secretary of State had 35 meetings with the Russian foreign Minister). Mr. Powell arrived in Russia from Tbilisi where he and Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov participated in the inauguration of new President of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili. The issues connected with Georgia, such as the terms of withdrawal of the Russian military bases from Georgia and extending the program of training Georgian special force by US military specialists, increased tension in the relations between Russia and the USA. Taking into account the importance of these issues, Mr. Powell and Mr.Ivanov decided to discuss them in details in Moscow.
However, Moscow considers disgraceful posing the Georgian issues as one of the most pressing problems of the US-Russia relations. High-ranking official of the Russian President Administration recently has made a statement that Moscow needs no mediators in the dialog between Russia and Georgia. The Kremlin is unwilling to make an impression that the clash of interests between Russia and the USA in the post-Soviet area is a touchy subject for Moscow.
Before his arrival in Russia, Mr. Powell said that he hoped that the meeting in Moscow would “demonstrate that the USA and Russia can cooperate in the spheres which are perceived as the areas of competition for the two countries”. Vice President of the US Board on Foreign Policy Kile Parker in his interview to the Vremya Novostei (News Time) newspaper expressed less optimism. According to him, “the situation in the Caucasus region and the clash of interests between Russia and the US there is a too complicated issue to be solved in one visit”.
Deputy Director of the Institute on the USA and Canada Viktor Kremenyuk was more pessimistic. He said to the Vremya Novostei that for these two days “Washington will make it clear to Moscow that Georgia must be left alone, Americans will deal with this country. Probably it will be asserted that Saakashvili will become one of the US junior partners, and Moscow will be required to inform the USA on any its action related to Georgia”.
However, the Russian expert believe that Mr. Powell’s visit in Moscow has special meaning not because of Georgia. Campaign on electing President is starting in the USA and the US-Russian relations can be in the campaign debates. This issue “is not the advantage for George Bush and can worsen his position in comparison with the Democrats. The Democratic Party leaders (such as General Clark) say that there is no democracy in Russia and even the thought of Russia as an ally terrifies". According tio Mr. Kremenyuk, Colin Powell needs solid guarantees from Moscow that “the case of Yukos oil company and the elections in the State Duma won by the pro-Presidential parties are temporary milestones of transitional period”.