In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 27, little more than a week after being sworn in as director of national intelligence, Retired Navy Vice Admiral Mike McConnell said Russia under President Vladimir Putin is backsliding on democracy and becoming increasingly hostile to Washington.
"The march to democracy has taken a back step in Russia," McConnell said. "There are more arrangements to control the process and the populace and the parties and so on, to the point of picking the next leader of Russia." Bad Influence
McConnell's comments reflect growing concern in Washington about Kremlin control over Russia's political process as elections approach.
"The march to democracy has taken a back step in Russia." -- McConnell
McConnell also said Putin is listening to advisers who are suspicious of the United States and are injecting "elements of rivalry and antagonism" into the Russian-American relationship.
"What I've been able to figure out so far is that those that [Russian President Putin] is listening to are extremely conservative and very suspicious of the United States and interpret things through a lens that portrays Russia as the downtrodden," McConnell said. "Or, we're trying to hold them back to the advantage of the United States." Cooperation At Risk
McConnell said the Kremlin's attitude could hamper cooperation on issues like counterterrorism and nonproliferation.
McConnell's comments follow a speech by Putin in Munich earlier this month in which the Russian president assailed the Bush administration for imposing its will on the world.
The verbal volleys come at a time when Russia is fiercely opposing U.S. plans to build a missile-defense system in Europe.