There has been further evidence of a cooling in US/Russian relations at a summit in Lithuania. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov strongly rejected comments by US Secretary of State in which she branded Belarus Europe’s ‘last true dictatorship’. The pair were speaking at a NATO and Russia conference in Vilnius. The clash follows controversial remarks by Rice yesterday in which she expressed concern about the progress of democracy in Russia.
Rice said it was time for a leadership change in Belarus, drawing this response from Lavrov: “We would not of course be advocating what some people call regime changes anywhere. We think the democratic process, the process of reform, cannot be imposed from outside.”There has been growing unease in the Kremlin about the US’s perceived interference in Russia’s traditional sphere of influence. American support for the opposition which toppled the former Ukrainian leadership is the most recent example. Rice has said there would be nothing wrong with supporting pro-democracy movements if it led to the downfall of the regimes like that in Belarus.