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US, Russia Relations Hit a New Low

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) gestures as he stands with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, before their meeting in Paris, June 5, 2014. Both are in France for the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings. REUTERS/Laurent Cipriani/Pool (FR

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) gestures as he stands with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, before their meeting in Paris, June 5, 2014. Both are in France for the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings. REUTERS/Laurent Cipriani/Pool (FR

From VOA Learning English, this is In The News.

The crisis in Ukraine has hurt relations between the United States and Russia. Evidence of this came recently when U.S. and Russian officials spoke at the United Nations.

President Barack Obama said the international community must urgently face what he called “Russian aggression in Europe.” He was talking about Russia’s occupation of Crimea and support for Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. The Russian government denies providing such support. Mr. Obama compared Russia’s moves in Ukraine to two other issues: the spread of the Ebola virus, and what he called “the brutality of terrorists in Syria and Iraq.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also spoke at the UN. He accused the United States of seeking what he called an “arrogant” policy in Ukraine. And he accused U.S. officials of attempting to “distort the truth” – failing to say what is really happening there.

John Parker studies Russia for the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. He believes relations between the two countries are at their lowest level in more than 30 years.

“The worst they've been for the last 30, 35 years. I think we have to go back to the period right after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in late 1979 and also the Soviet shoot-down of the Korean airliner in 1983 to find a period where relations have been so bad.”

The relationship was very different at the beginning of the Obama administration. The improved ties resulted in a major arms control agreement. Under the treaty, the two sides agreed to reduce long-range nuclear weapons.

Other examples of cooperation included Russia taking a firm position with Iran over its suspected nuclear weapons program. Russia also agreed to let the U.S. military pass through Russian territory on its way to and from Afghanistan. This is an important step as the military reduces its force in the country.

But observers say relations have worsened over the past few years. One reason is Russia’s strong support for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. Another is Russia’s decision to let American Edward Snowden spend three years in the country. The former intelligence contract worker is accused of leaking U.S. government documents. And another issue is Russia’s actions in Ukraine. They have led the United States and European Union to approve economic sanctions against Russia.

Stephen Jones is with Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. He thinks the two sides could cooperate in some areas, such as the struggle against Islamic State militants.

“Here is somewhere where clearly Russia and the United States have common interests in trying to prevent the Islamic State’s spread into other regions. Russia must be concerned about this and what might happen in Central Asia with the rise of this sort of Islamic fundamentalism.”

But other observers see little if any chance of cooperation in that area. Matthew Rojansky is with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.

“The whole premise of Putin’s foreign policy is he doesn’t follow anyone, much less America.”

And many experts say they do not expect the relationship between Russia and the United States to change over the next few years. Those observers include John Parker of the National Defense University.

“Whoever is the next U.S. president is still going to have a lot of problems in dealing with Russia, and likewise Russia with the U.S. I actually see a fairly prolonged ‘Cold War-ish’ period ahead of us that is going to extend deep into certainly the first term of whoever follows President Obama in the White House. And on the other side, of course, there is no sign that Putin is ever going to leave the Kremlin. So on that side, it’s not going to change. Putin is not going to change his political spots.”

Observers also note a lot of distrust between the two sides. In fact, they say, there is so much that it would prevent any kind of forward movement in the relationship.

And that’s In The News from VOA Learning English. I’m Mario Ritter.

This report is based on a story from VOA correspondent Andre DeNesnera. George Grow wrote it for Learning English. The editor was Mario Ritter.


Words in this Story

relations – n. understandings or ties between nations

support n. something able to carry weight, to hold in position

truth n. something that is correct; the facts about something

treaty n. a written agreement between two or more nations

cooperatev. to act or work together

Now it’s your turn to use these Words in this Story. In the comments section, write a sentence using one of these words and we will provide feedback on your use of vocabulary and grammar.

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