Planet News Views

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

U.S. Relations With Russia at Stake, Rice Must Tone Down Tough Talk

By Scott McLean

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had a firm stance last week regarding Russia in its dispute with Ukraine over natural gas sales. The tension grew today as Pravda, one of Russia's major newspapers, issued harsh words for the U.S. Secretary of State in the English version of its website.

The natural gas conflict between Ukraine and Russia resulted when the two countries could not agree to the gas price, with Ukraine maintaining a price had been set previously and Russia demanding a price more than double what Ukraine had expected.

Secretary of State Rice, who specializes in Russian affairs, accused Russia of having political motives in the area of natural resource trade. Russia maintained that the gas crisis could be resolved by the two countries and didn't want her to interfere.

As it turned out they did reach a resolution, as reported by Pravda, but it does seem rather problematic because the numbers don't add up. Russia still plans to charge the higher price and Ukraine thinks it can pay the lower price for gas. But they both agreed to it.

Perception is powerful in politics. Russia now believes Rice is a bully who wants to tell them how to run their country and foreign affairs. Can the United States foreign policy be successful if it is thought of as a bully? It is quite doubtful.

Despite her obvious career success, Rice is not presently a professor and therefore doesn't have the luxury of living in the scholarly world of theories. This world is very real and foreign policy decisions come with consequences.

Although Rice is said to have a great deal of book knowledge of Russian politics, this writer, feels her response to Russia lacks sensitivity and her decision making needs more objectivity which is necessary to succeed as Secretary of State.


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