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The Hindu (India)
January 10, 2003
U.S. steps up pressure on Russia
By Vladimir Radyuhin

MOSCOW JAN. 9. As tension around Iraq builds up, Russia appears to have become the target of a massive propaganda campaign designed to make it more compliant to the likely U.S. military operation against Baghdad. Propaganda pressure on Moscow combines both carrot and stick tactics.

On the one hand, the U.S. is tempting Russia with offers to buy Russian oil and cooperate in futuristic missile technologies and, on the other, Western media are trying to drive a wedge between Moscow and Baghdad. On Tuesday the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Alexander Vershbow, said that Washington could make use of sophisticated Russian laser and other technologies for its missile shield.

``Given that Russia has tremendous scientific know-how and some experience with defensive systems, we think this could be a really serious partnership, which will benefit us both,'' Mr. Vershbow told the Interfax news agency. The U.S. diplomat did not make it a secret that his proposal pursued a clear propaganda goal. ``I am aware that there is certain amount of scepticism among the Russian military establishment as to how serious American intentions are,'' Interfax quoted Mr. Vershbow as saying.

"That is why I'd like to emphasise for the Russian military who would read this interview that we're are dead serious.'' Russian experts indeed suspect that the U.S. was anxious to get hold of Russian anti-missile secrets, but would be reluctant to share its high-end technologies. Also, the timing of the U.S. offer is suspicious: it was made a day before the U.N. weapon inspectors in Iraq were to present an interim report on their findings.

Russia maintains that so far no evidence has been produced to prove that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. At the other end the American propaganda tactics is speculation about a U.S.-Russia nexus to remove Saddam Hussein without war. Reports of Russia cultivating Iraqi opposition have recently given way to suggestions that U.S. and Russian leaders are working on a peace plan that would have Mr. Hussein going into exile, possibly in Moscow. Interestingly, this plan was reported this week by the German Die Tageszeitung newspaper, which last month accused Russian companies of having sold missile and helicopter components to Baghdad in violation of the U.N. arms embargo.

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