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U.S. Intelligence Chief Says Russia Backsliding


http://gdb.rferl.org/04D956AE-D4AD-458C-A36C-6D4E72FCBC9B_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/04D956AE-D4AD-458C-A36C-6D4E72FCBC9B_mw800_mh600.jpg McConnell made clear his opinion of Russian affairs (epa) February 28, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- The new U.S. intelligence chief has not wasted any time letting the world know what he thinks about the state of affairs in Russia.

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.
Russia Beyond 2008

President Putin is mulling his political future (epa)

THE 2008 QUESTION: President Vladimir Putin's second term of office ends in the spring of 2008. Since the Russian Constitution bars him from seeking a third consecutive term, this event threatens to present a crisis in a country that has a history of managed power transitions. Already, Russian politics are dominated by the ominous 2008 question.
RFE/RL's Washington office hosted a briefing to discuss the prospects of Putin seeking a third term. The featured speakers were RFE/RL Communications Director Don Jensen and political scientist Peter Reddaway of George Washington University.


LISTEN

Listen to Don Jensen's presentation (about 16 minutes):
Real Audio Windows Media


LISTEN

Listen to Peter Reddaway's presentation (about 35 minutes):
Real Audio Windows Media


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