Russia and the Middle East
Sun, 24 march 2019Sun
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Rice: Russia Must Improve Democracy for Better Ties

Russia must do more to show it is committed to "the basics of democracy" if it wants deeper relations with the West, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Saturday. The former Soviet specialist, on her first trip abroad as the top U.S. diplomat, arrived from Warsaw in Ankara, where she will pay a call on a key ally in the Muslim world and meet her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. "Obviously we have concerns ... it is important that Russia make clear to the world that it is intent on strengthening the rule of law, strengthening the role of an independent judiciary, permitting a free and independent press," Rice told a news conference in Warsaw, during a stopover en route to Turkey.
Rice also said that Moscow needed to support democratic trends in its neighborhood, an apparent reference to last year's U.S. clash with Russia over rigged elections in Ukraine. "This is not just about democratic developments in Russia. It is about democratic developments in the whole of Europe and all of the neighbors of Russia," Rice told reporters on board her plane en route to Ankara.
President Bush has vowed this year to spread democracy around the world in a pledge that political analysts say could complicate relations with Russia, which typically balks at U.S. criticism of its internal affairs.
Last year, the United States began voicing its concern over what it called Russia's "backsliding," and during a 10-stop, eight-day tour of Europe and the Middle East Rice said she would keep expressing those concerns in hopes of improving ties. "We really do believe a more democratic foundation in Russia ... will indeed strengthen and underscore and put a real sort of substance into a deepening relationship with the democracies of Europe, and indeed the United States."