Rus­sia en­voy: Ten­sions with U.S. are prob­a­bly worst since 1973

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Edith M. Lederer The As­so­ci­ated Press

Rus­sia’s U.N. am­bas­sador said that ten­sions with the United States are prob­a­bly the worst since the 1973 Mideast war.

But Vi­taly Churkin said Fri­day that Cold War re­la­tions be­tween the Soviet Union and Rus­sia more than 40 years ago were dif­fer­ent than U.S.-Rus­sia re­la­tions to­day.

“The gen­eral sit­u­a­tion I think is pretty bad at this point, prob­a­bly the worst ... since 1973,” he said in an in­ter­view with three jour­nal­ists at Rus­sia’s U.N. Mis­sion.

But Churkin said that “even though we have se­ri­ous fric­tions, dif­fer­ences like Syria, we con­tinue to work on other is­sues ... and some­times quite well.”

That wasn’t the case gen­er­ally dur­ing the Cold War.

When Egypt and Syria launched a sur­prise at­tack against Is­rael on the holi­est day in the Jewish calendar in Oc­to­ber 1973, the Mideast was thrown into tur­moil. And ac­cord­ing to his­to­ri­ans, the threat of an out­break of fight­ing be­tween the Soviet Union, which backed the Arabs, and the United States, Is­rael’s clos­est ally, dur­ing the Yom Kip­pur War was the high­est since the 1962 Cuban mis­sile cri­sis.

Churkin said there are “a string of things” that have brought U.S.-Rus­sian re­la­tions to their cur­rent low point.

“It’s kind of a fun­da­men­tal lack of re­spect and lack of in-depth dis­cus­sions” on po­lit­i­cal is­sues, he said.

Churkin pointed to the U.S. and NATO de­cid­ing to build their se­cu­rity “at the ex­pense of Rus­sia” by ac­cept­ing many East Eu­ro­pean na­tions for­merly in the Soviet bloc as NATO mem­bers, and the United States pull­out from the Anti-Bal­lis­tic Mis­sile Treaty in 2001.

One of “the great­est provo­ca­tions” dur­ing Pres­i­dent George W. Bush’s ad­min­is­tra­tion was the 2008 NATO sum­mit, which de­cided that Ukraine and Ge­or­gia should be­come NATO mem­bers, he said.

Most im­por­tant, he said, was the con­flict that erupted in east­ern Ukraine in April 2014, weeks af­ter a for­mer Moscow-friendly Ukrainian pres­i­dent was chased from power by mas­sive protests. Churkin called it “a coup” sup­ported by the United States. Soon af­ter, Rus­sia an­nexed Ukraine’s Crimean Penin­sula, which has led to Western sanc­tions against Moscow.

Ties be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Moscow have de­te­ri­o­rated fur­ther in the past month af­ter the col­lapse of a cease-fire in Syria and in­ten­si­fied bomb­ing on Aleppo by Syr­ian and Rus­sian air­craft, and U.S. ac­cu­sa­tions that Rus­sia is med­dling in the U.S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tion next month. But de­spite the strained re­la­tions, U.S. Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry and Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergey Lavrov met Satur­day in Lausanne, Switzer­land, in an ef­fort to look at pos­si­bil­i­ties for restor­ing a cease-fire.

Churkin also pointed to other pos­i­tive achieve­ments in U.S.-Rus­sia re­la­tions even at this low point. He cited agree­ments in the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil in re­cent years sup­ported by Moscow and Wash­ing­ton, even on Syria — al­low­ing cross-bor­der aid de­liv­er­ies with­out gov­ern­ment ap­proval and es­tab­lish­ing a team of ex­perts to de­ter­mine re­spon­si­bil­ity for chem­i­cal weapons at­tacks in the coun­try. He also cited coun­cil res­o­lu­tions to com­bat ter­ror­ism.

SETH WENIG — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Rus­sian Am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions Vi­taly Churkin makes a state­ment dur­ing the ap­point­ment of the Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral des­ig­nate, An­to­nio Guter­res of Por­tu­gal, at United Na­tions head­quar­ters, Thurs­day.

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