Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Blog update: Leaving Russia

Blog update from Senator Collins in Russia:
A fascinating day of meetings with the Foreign Minister and his deputy for two hours (far longer than usual for a meeting of this sort), with the chairman of the International Relations Committee of the Duma (Russian Parliament,) and with a human rights activist who spent years in a Soviet prison and gave an impassioned speech on the lack of true political freedom in Russia. In addition, we spent considerable time with our ambassador, an impressive career diplomat.

I was struck again today by how much the Russians seem to want a better relationship with us, yet how much a sense of resentment and loss of power shapes their views. They are convinced that the proposed missile defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic are directed at them rather than Iran, even as they concede that our assessment of the growing Iranian missile capability was more accurate than theirs was.
After the meetings, we took a quick tour of Red Square with its famed onion-domed Orthodox Russian cathedral, St. Basil.

One other observation as I leave Russia: the air pollution and traffic in Moscow are truly horrendous, and people smoke everywhere or so it seems. The average Russian male lives to only age 59.

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