Washington briefing: U.S. officials, Congress members debate relations with Russia

by Emil Sanamyan

Published: Saturday August 01, 2009

President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia with President Barack Obama of the United States, Grand Kremlin Palace, Moscow, July 6, 2009. Russia's Presidential Press and Information Office

Washington - In testimony before the House Subcommittee on Europe on July 28, Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Celeste Wallander discussed the aftermath of President Barack Obama's visit to Moscow in early July.

The two officials agreed that concerns over Iran's nuclear program also dominate U.S. thinking in its efforts to engage the Russian government.

Members of the subcommittee appeared split on the likelihood of a successful engagement with Russia, with subcommittee chair Robert Wexler (D.-Fla.) and others appearing skeptical.

On the other side of the debate, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R.-Calif.) was most upbeat on Russia and dismissive of U.S. support for the former Soviet republics.

To address, what Rep. Rohrabacher described as two overarching U.S. foreign policy concerns - radical Islamism and communist China - the United States needed the support of "giant" Russia rather than an "alliance of Lilliputians." Rep. Rohrabacher also suggested that it was Russia rather than its smaller neighbors that should be brought into NATO.

Rep. Bill Delahunt (D.-Mass.) expressed concerns over reports that Georgia was seeking to acquire weapons from the United States and said he was strongly opposed to such a move.

In a response, Ms. Wallander noted that the United States believes Georgia is "not ready" to receive U.S. weapons, but did not rule out such supplies in the future. For now, U.S. military support for Georgia will continue to focus on military training programs.

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