Russian offensive has forced reassessment of US dealings with Moscow

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Washington, Aug 15 : Russia's military offensive into Georgia has jolted Washington's relationship with Moscow, senior Bush Administration officials have said.

The offensive has forced a wholesale reassessment of American dealings with Russia and jeopardizing talks on everything from halting Iran's nuclear ambitions to reducing strategic arsenals to cooperation on missiles defences

Even as the conflict between Russia and Georgia appeared to ease on Thursday, Secretary of Defence Robert M. Gates said the Russian attack had forced a fundamental rethinking of the administration's effort to forge "an ongoing and long-term strategic dialogue with Russia."

"Russia's behaviour over the past week has called into question the entire premise of that dialogue and has profound implications for our security relationship going forward, both bilaterally and with NATO," Gates said.

"If Russia does not step back from its aggressive posture and actions in Georgia, the U.S.-Russian relationship could be adversely affected for years to come," he added.

The conflict punctuated a stark turnabout in the Bush Administration's view of Vladimir V. Putin, the President turned Prime Minister whom President Bush has repeatedly described as a trustworthy friend.

Now Bush's aides complain that Russian officials have been misleading or at least evasive about Russia's intentions in Georgia, the New York Times reported.

The unspoken new danger is that a cooling relationship could cost the Bush Administration any hope of working closely with Russia on some of its topmost priorities, like controlling nuclear proliferation, countering terrorism or resolving the problems of the Middle East.

Gates and Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that American forces had the right to self-defence but he did not anticipate that they would have to resort to force to distribute the medicine and shelters.

Gates stressed that he was not predicting a return to the Cold War, and said that over all the United States response to the crisis had been restrained.

ANI

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