But Kosovo May Be The Biggest Relationship Breaker Of All
Trouble is brewing between the United States and Russia over a host of issues, including Iran, Hamas and the US plans to expand its missile defence system via foreign bases close to Russia's border.
Russia has proven to be a reliable and influential ally of Iran in the past year, all but completely dismantling Washington's attempts to isolate Iran from the rest of the international community. Russia has energy deals worth tens of billions of dollars with Iran, and is building one of its new nuclear energy reactors.
Russia sees the actions of Israel and the United States in, and against, Iraq, Iran and other Arab states as negatively influencing its long-term plans to expand business and energy deals across both Sunni and Shiite states, including Palestine.
It is interesting to note that it has been the United States and not Russia who has been acting aggressively, and undiplomatically, in the region. The more the US and Israel pushes, prods and threatens states like Iran and Syria and Lebanon, the more they look to Russia for protection and development funds.
Russia's controversial Foreign Affairs Minister, Sergev Lavrov, spent almost a week in Washington in late January, early February, specifically to take part in the Quartet negotiations aimed at pushing forward the 'Roadmap To Peace' for Israel and Palestine.
While in Washington, Lavrov, claims he was told by the Americans they were not intending to start a new war in the Middle East :
"The American side assured us that it has no plans to go to war against Iran," said Mr. Lavrov en route from Washington to Moscow.But there remains visible, risible tensions between the United States over other issues relating to Iran.
According to Mr. Lavrov, he was told in Washington that the buildup of American military strength in the Persian Gulf "is aimed at stabilizing the situation in the region and at calming the fears of the Gulf countries."
The US is now trying to bolt sanctions onto Russian companies they believe are cooperating militarily with Iran. The US has also placed sanctions on Rosoboronexport, a massive Russian arms exporter, and other Russian weapons manufacturers.
The Russians see these sanctions as both insulting, and a betrayal.
The US only got its widely heralded, but minor, sanctions against Iran through the United Nations Security Council because Russia chose not to veto the American push.
The Russians let America have its small victory against Iran, but its move to sanction Russian companies dealing with Iran is viewed in the Kremlin as "an unfriendly move".
But even more fireball for Russian-US relations is Washington's growing of its missile defence system (MDS) into Poland, the Baltic States and Czech Republic. The Kremlin sees the Americans shuttling a missile defence system virtually onto Russia's borders.
Lavrov had no luck during his late January visit to Washington to get the Americans to rein back its MDS expansion :
"What we have been hearing [on this topic] has not convinced us that this is an adequate answer to the real threats that exist today in the sphere of nuclear and missile proliferation," contended Mr. Lavrov after his return to Moscow.Russia had also pushed Washington and Israel to recognise that Hamas was the legitimate authority of the Palestinian government and that the crippling international trade and aid boycott must be lifted.
Again, no interest from Washington in recognising Hamas, while it refuses to recognise Israel.
From Naharnet.com :
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said the United States is likely the "most difficult partner" for Russia to deal with, reiterating suggestions that the U.S. was being shortsighted by not engaging countries that could help solve problems from Iraq and Lebanon to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.Lavrov claims Washington's position in the Middle East is "too confrontational," and claimed that while the relationship between President Bush and President Putin appeared to be strong, relations between their equivalent state and foreign affairs departments were "far less positive" :
"The Middle East settlement has been suspended because, despite our position and the position of the European Union, Washington has conducted policy based on the principle, 'He who is not with us is against us,"' the Interfax news agency on Sunday quoted Lavrov as saying.
He said that the United States is isolating Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hizbullah, even though they are "key actors in solving the Middle East puzzle."
The remarks reflected troubled ties between the Cold War superpowers, which are strained by disagreements over an array of international issues and over Russia's record on democracy under President Vladimir Putin, despite avowals of common aims on matters such as terrorism and weapons proliferation.
While Moscow and Washington have been able to "achieve mutually acceptable results" on many issues, he said the United States "is not an easy partner at all (to deal with) -- probably the most difficult partner."
Lavrov said that Moscow is frank with Washington when it takes issue with U.S. foreign policy, and that the United States should learn from its own experience, and quickly.
"Too much potential for crisis has built up in addition to Iraq and Afghanistan."
Russia sharply criticized the U.S. invasion of Iraq and has sought to counter what it suggests are overly uncompromising U.S. positions on the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea.
And then there is Russia's increasing investment in Iran's oil, gas and nuclear energy future, which moves ahead in leaps and bounds despite the pressure from Washington :
...the United States holds little chance of discouraging Russia from pursuing energy cooperation with the cash-strapped but oil- and gas-rich Iran.
Russia wants Iranian oil and natural gas, and while concerns over Tehran`s nuclear program may affect relations in the future, for the time being Moscow is not hesitating to invest in energy exploration and production in Iran.
LUKoil, the largest Russian oil company, agreed in January to take over development of the 26 billion-barrel Azadegan oil field. Japanese oil company INPEX had contracted for a 75 percent stake in the field, but under pressure from the United States, dropped its share to 10 percent at the end of last year.
And in December Russian media reported that Tehran and Moscow would pursue a joint venture to develop natural gas deposits in the two countries.
Iran is desperate for investment in its energy sector. Domestic shortages in January forced it to stop contracted shipments of natural gas to Turkey, despite holding the world`s second-largest proven gas reserves, more than 950 trillion cubic feet, or about 16 percent of the world`s total. Iranian oil production is suffering as well, though it has 10 percent of the world`s reserves.
Russia and Iran, the world`s top two producers of natural gas, may be teaming up in other ways. Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Moscow would consider a natural gas cartel with Iran.
At the same time as highlighting tensions between the White House and the Kremlin over Iran, Hamas, the Middle East in general, and missile defence, the world's media has barely touched on one issue that is likely to see serious tensions and perhaps even military confrontations in the future between the Bear and the Wolf.
And that issue is the future of Kosovo.
A dangerous dispute now ferments over how Kosovo will be officially determined in the near future, and what areas will constitute its territory.
The United States is behind the push for independence for the province of Kosovo.
But the Russians back Serbia in its claims that Kosovo is "an integral part of its territory."
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