Ties with Russia remain strong, US says

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (C) visits the international press centre of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Vladivostok September 6, 2012. (REUTERS/Mikhail Klimentyev/Ria Novosti/Pool)

WASHINGTON: Ties between the United States and Russia, its former Cold War foe, remain strong following a reset of their relationship despite some key disagreements, a top US official said Thursday.

Asked to describe the current state of relations between the two global powers, the official said "they're good."

"You know that the reset has obviously reaped important dividends and that has been important in terms of our relationship," acting State Department deputy spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.

"We have some areas that we definitely disagree on, no doubt Syria at the top of those. But we continue to have a productive relationship with the Russian Federation."

US President Barack Obama famously reset ties with Russia when he came to office in 2009, after relations plunged to a new low under the previous administration of president George W. Bush.

But the then Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, who was a valued Obama partner, has stepped aside, and Vladimir Putin is back in charge in the Kremlin.

Obama and Putin have met just once since the Russian leader's re-election, and there have been growing strains between the two countries, notably over Moscow's support for the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Moscow has stirred Western and Arab world anger by vetoing three UN Security Council resolution providing sanctions against Assad during the 18-month conflict.

Putin also accused Washington of helping to orchestrate protests against him during his re-election bid.

The Russian leader did not attend the G8 talks held at Camp David in May, saying he had to form a new government -- an excuse which was not seen as very convincing by the US side -- and Obama declined an invitation to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Vladivostok this weekend as it clashed with the Democratic Party convention.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will instead represent the United States at the APEC talks, although a top Putin aide hinted she may only be granted a brief meeting with the Russian leader.

"They will step to one side" for talks during the reception given by Putin this weekend, top foreign policy aide Yury Ushakov told reporters. "If there are chairs around, they will take a seat."

He added Clinton would not have a full-blown bilateral meeting with Putin because she is not a head of state.

"We are not in a position to confirm any bilateral meetings at this point, but she'll certainly meet with a number of foreign leaders while she has the chance," Ventrell told journalists at the State Department, adding he "wouldn't read a lot" into Ushakov's comments.

"The relationship is strong... I don't want to speculate on what kind of meeting might transpire. But let's see what happens."





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