The Moscow Times reports yet more evidence of how suicidal neo-Soviet Russia has alienated and polarized the world's most powerful nation:
The war of words between Moscow and Washington resumed overnight with a senior U.S. intelligence official accusing the Kremlin of backsliding on democracy and Russia's chief diplomat accusing the White House of unilateralism.
"The march for democracy has taken a step back," national intelligence director Michael McConnell said Monday at a U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Reuters reported. "And now there are more arrangements to control the process and the populace and the parties and so on, to the point of picking the next leader of Russia."
McConnell added: "As Russia moves toward a presidential election in March 2008, succession maneuvering has intensified and increasingly dominates Russian domestic and foreign policy."
The hearing focused on global threats to U.S. national security. McConnell's remarks were posted on the U.S. Senate committee's web site.
McConnell also said President Vladimir Putin is now surrounded by "extremely conservative" advisers who are suspicious of the United States.
Earlier in February, Putin told a security conference in Munich that U.S. unilateralism threatens global stability and called Washington's plan for a missile defense system -- parts of which would be based in Eastern Europe -- a threat to Russia.
McConnell said Russia had been emboldened by its robust economy to pursue foreign policy goals that "are not always consistent with those of Western institutions."
The Foreign Ministry had no comment in response to McConnell's remarks.
Konstantin Kosachyov, chairman of the State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, sought to downplay McConnell's comments, saying they "do not reflect the official U.S. position," Interfax reported.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, echoing Putin, said U.S. bullheadedness made it impossible for Russia to be a global partner.
"When we are being presented with an absolutely unilateral strategy, and we are being asked to show solidarity and fight this or that evil, it is not a partnership relation," Lavrov said in an interview published in Rossiiskaya Gazeta on Wednesday. "We cannot accept such an approach."
Russia's "unprecedented weakness" in the wake of the 1991 Soviet collapse limited Moscow's ability "to tell the truth and to have its own view."
Ivan Safranchuk, head of the Moscow office of the Center for Defense Information, a U.S. think tank, said escalating criticism between Washington and Moscow reflected the lack of a "safety margin" in U.S.-Russian relations.
"Each side says that a new Cold War would be a bad thing, and then tells the other: 'But you're the bad guys,'" Safranchuk said.