Ex-ambassadors urge US, Russia to mend rift

MOSCOW (AP) — The U.S. and Russia should overcome their cold spell by focusing on their common economic and security challenges, former diplomats to Moscow and Washington said Tuesday.

The ex-ambassadors, who gathered in Moscow to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic ties, said the strains have been driven by emotions and misperceptions rather than fundamental differences.

They strongly urged the Kremlin and the White House to move past mutual grievances and deal with common threats.

President Barack Obama’s initiative to “reset” relations with Russia has run into obstacles as the Kremlin accuses Washington of meddling in Russia’s domestic affairs. Ties also have been strained by a dispute over U.S. missile defense plans and differences over the Syrian civil war.

U.S.-Russian relations hit a new low in December when Russia banned Americans from adopting Russian children to retaliate against a U.S. law calling for sanctions on Russians who are identified as human-rights violators.

“In many ways, people are passing legislation in both countries that is undermining some of the most important achievements of the last three-four years,” said James Collins, the U.S. ambassador to Russia from 1997 to 2001.

He voiced hope that Moscow and Washington would find a way to approach their differences in a “more reasonable and rational way.”

“We don’t really see a reason, any fundamental reason, why Russia and the United States can’t find common purpose and find means of cooperation to address the real issues that face both of our people,” Collins said.

He added that “neither Russia nor the United States really knows what to do about Syria,” where a civil war has killed an estimated 70,000 people in two years.

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