Russian ambassador: Boston shows need for more cooperation

The United States and Russia need to share “significantly more” intelligence to fight terrorists in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, the Russian ambassador to the U.S. said on Tuesday.

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U.S. lawmakers have criticized Russian authorities for raising initial concerns two years ago about one of the alleged bombers, but then refusing to divulge many details to Americans about why he was flagged.

Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., said the bombings are a stark reminder of the prevalence of terrorism throughout the world and the need for the United States and Russia to work together more closely.

“It’s a phenomenon that is like a cancerous disease, expanding, and you will not be successful fighting it in only one country,” said Kislyak at a breakfast panel organized by the Institute for Education.

“It has to be fought by cooperating on a global basis, and I think that we — the governments that are involved in these issues — need to do significantly more in analyzing, cooperating, [and] interacting in a practical sense.

“It’s not going to be wished away. And in order to fight it, we have to do it from the basis of cooperation.”

U.S.-Russian relations have been on the front burner recently over the issue of Syria.

As senators push for the United States to arm rebel factions fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad, the Russians have sought to protect Assad, announcing plans to provide him with a missile defense system aimed at thwarting outside attacks.

But differences in U.S.-Russia policies toward Syria have not adversely affected the potential for more information sharing between the two countries on other issues, said Kislyak.

Also on the panel on Tuesday, John Negroponte, the former director of National Intelligence under President George W. Bush, said that Russia is “vital to our common objective of achieving a solution in Syria.”

Kislyak agreed, stressing that Russia simply wants every major Syrian player to have a voice in resolving the conflict and that they should solve it internally with as little outside influence as possible.

“The country is divided almost in two,” said Kislyak, speaking about Syria. “They all have the right to participate in the decision making on who’s going to be their leader.

“After these very painful years of war … they need to be able to decide — all of them, those on the opposition side and those who are still supporting the government — what the future of their country is going to be, because any other recipe is a recipe for disaster, for the bloodshed, for revenge.”

Negroponte said he was encouraged by the reaction of U.S. intelligence officials toward Russia after the Boston bombing, which killed 3 people and injured more than 200 others.

The lack of information sharing that lead up to the bombings could have easily intensified tensions between the two former Cold War enemies, he said.

“This is an opportunity for us to strengthen and enhance our cooperation with Russia on these matters, as well as many others,” he said. “I’m glad that that seems to have been the general public reaction here in the United States.

“You could have had a different reaction. You could have had a reaction [of]: ‘Oh my God, this has its roots in Russia. What are we going to do to penalize the relationship somehow?’ But that is not the course the administration and our public seem to have taken. If anything … we see a strengthening of U.S.-Russia cooperation.”

But the FBI has pledged to give Russia access to more intelligence information and information about possible threats facing it.

The United States and Russia intersect on a wide swath of international issues, ranging from nuclear proliferation to intelligence sharing. And both officials acknowledged the possibility that one area of potential disagreement could bleed over and affect the level of openness on a separate area if diplomats aren’t careful.

Negroponte said U.S.-Russia efforts to fight terrorism should not be hindered by some objections in the United States to Russia’s human rights record.

“We have to decide what we want. Do we, Americans, want to be sitting on the sidelines and offering our commentary, sometimes gratuitous, on what’s happening internally in Russia as far as their human rights and other situations?” asked Negroponte, the former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, the United Nations and Mexico.

“Sure, people have a right to be concerned and interested in those things, but they should not be linked to our ability to cooperate on other extremely important issues.”

Kislyak objected to the characterization of Russia’s human rights record, saying that it was “unfair” and a perception that has been wrongly carried over from the country’s past.