The International Herald Tribune reports on Russia's further alienation of the United States:
The top U.S. intelligence official warned Thursday that Russia is becoming a regional energy superpower and increasingly is pursuing foreign policy goals that threaten U.S. and Western interests.
In his annual review of global threats, National Intelligence Director John Negroponte said high energy prices have allowed Russia to increase its assertiveness in foreign affairs.
"A flush economy and perceived policy successes at home and abroad have bolstered Russian confidence, enabled increased defense spending and emboldened the Kremlin to pursue foreign policy goals that are not always consistent with those of Western institutions," Negroponte told the Senate Intelligence Committee in written testimony.
Rivalry with Russia, he said, will complicate cooperation on important foreign policy goals including counterterror, nonproliferation and democracy promotion in the Middle East.
As Russia approaches a March 2008 presidential election, the government has been undermining its credibility as a partner with the West by stifling political opposition, Negroponte said.
"As the recent Litvinenko murder demonstrates, the steady accumulation of problems and irritants threatens to harm Russia's relations with the West more broadly," he said.
Alexander Litvinenko, a Kremlin critic who lived in exile in London, died in a London hospital on Nov. 23 after receiving a lethal dose of polonium-210. In a deathbed statement, he accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of ordering his murder, which the Kremlin has denied.
Russia's foreign policy tactics also are producing friction with the West.
Negroponte said Russia is trying to use economic power stemming from its exports of the country's immense energy resources to influence the internal politics of neighbors, including countries such as Georgia and Ukraine, former Soviet republics that have recently moved toward greater democracy.
"Russia is attempting to exploit the leverage that high energy prices has afforded it, increasingly using strong-arm tactics against neighboring countries," he said.
He warned more broadly that access to energy is emerging as a source of greater vulnerability for the West as producers increase their economic power and consumers compete more aggressively for resources.
"We have entered a new era in which security has become an increasing priority not only for the U.S. and the West, but also rapidly developing economies like China and India that are becoming major energy consumers," he said.
In separate prepared testimony, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Michael Maples, said "Russian entities" sell technologies useful for weapons of mass destruction and missile programs abroad.