Russia and the United States attempted to “reset” their relations when President Barack Obama entered the White House in 2009, but ties have turned decidedly cooler since Vladimir Putin declared last year he planned to return to the presidency.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has declared that Russia is Washington’s number one geopolitical foe, while Moscow has chafed under recent U.S. allegations that it harbours human rights abusers.
Now two weeks before the U.S. presidential election, the State Duma lower parliament house held a three-hour hearing criticising its former Cold War foe.
“The U.S. claim on the role of absolute leader in the sphere of human rights is unsustainable and is not confirmed by practical realities,” Itar-Tass quoted the Foreign Ministry’s human rights envoy Konstantin Dolgov as saying to lawmakers.
The Duma hearing took the form of a presentation by the Foreign Ministry recommending actions by the lawmakers.
Russia also said the United States used human rights as a pretext for meddling in the affairs of sovereign states around the world, in a veiled jibe at Washington’s handling of an uprising in Libya.
“(Russian authorities) must defend against policies being carried out by the United States directed at using the concept of rights as an instrument of pressure and as a basis for intervention in the internal affairs of sovereign governments,” the Foreign Ministry presentation read.
That echoed a foreign policy decree Putin signed the day he was inaugurated in May, which said Moscow would seek closer ties with the United States but would not tolerate interference in its affairs and would “counter attempts to use human rights … as an instrument of political pressure”.
In power since 2000, Putin has frequently accused the United States of meddling in the affairs of Russia and other nations.
Congress is considering a bill that would require the U.S. government to impose sanctions on people believed responsible for the death of Sergei Magnitsky, an anti-corruption lawyer who died in a Moscow jail in 2009, and other human rights violators.
Romney and some lawmakers have demanded the bill be adopted if the United States upgrades trade relations with Moscow, after Russia joined the World Trade Organization in August.
In a sign of deteriorating ties earlier this month, Russia said it would not renew a decades-old agreement with Washington aimed at dismantling nuclear and chemical weapons. Washington said the two sides were still talking over its extension.
Russia has accused the United States of trying to sway Russian elections and meddle in its domestic affairs through its U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and it ordered the agency’s Russian operations shut down this month.
Kremlin critics said the move was intended to cut funding to organisations Putin sees as a threat following his return as president after four years as prime minister, and called it part of a crackdown on dissent. DM
Photo: Deputies listen to Russia’s Prime Minister and President-elect Vladimir Putin during his annual address to the parliament at the Russian State Duma in Moscow, April 11, 2012. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
Are You A South AfriCAN or a South AfriCAN'T?
Maverick Insider is more than a reader revenue scheme. While not quite a "state of mind", it is a mindset: it's about believing that independent journalism makes a genuine difference to our country and it's about having the will to support that endeavour.
From the #GuptaLeaks into State Capture to the Scorpio exposés into SARS, Daily Maverick investigations have made an enormous impact on South Africa and it's political landscape. As we enter an election year, our mission to Defend Truth has never been more important. A free press is one of the essential lines of defence against election fraud; without it, national polls can turn very nasty, very quickly as we have seen recently in the Congo.
If you would like a practical, tangible way to make a difference in South Africa consider signing up to become a Maverick Insider. You choose how much to contribute and how often (monthly or annually) and in exchange, you will receive a host of awesome benefits. The greatest benefit of all (besides inner peace)? Making a real difference to a country that needs your support.
"Don't tell me the sky's the limit when there are footprints on the moon." ~ Paul Brandt