U.S. Ambassador to Russia Says No Return to Cold War

Posted March 23rd, 2012 at 9:45 am (UTC-5)
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The new U.S. ambassador to Russia says he has been surprised by how much anti-American sentiment he has experienced at his new post, but says neither Russian nor U.S. officials want to go back to the diplomatic tension that marked the nuclear arms race in the mid-20th century.

Ambassador Michael McFaul has been on the job for two months. In an interview with VOA Thursday, he said part of the strain between the two countries is due to a missile defense system the U.S. plans to build in Eastern Europe. He said it is clear Washington has not yet convinced Moscow that such a system, designed to defend against missile strikes from Iran, would not be a threat to Russia.

McFaul also said U.S. policy toward Russia will not change now that Vladimir Putin has been elected president. While Mr. Putin said during his campaign that the U.S. was backing democracy rallies in Moscow, Ambassador McFaul said Washington only funds non-governmental, non-political groups in Russia. He said none of those funds are intended for political organizations, but instead are meant to help build civil society in Russia.

Despite tensions — and the uncertainty that accompanies this year's U.S. presidential election — McFaul said Russian government officials seem no more inclined than U.S. officials to return to what he called the “bitter, bickering rhetoric” of the Cold War.