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On Independence Day, Putin extends olive branch to Obama and US

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Evan Vucci/AP

(Read caption) President Obama meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Northern Ireland in 2013. Mr. Putin asked Mr. Obama in a message July 4 to restore the two countries' ties.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a message to President Obama on Independence Day, Monday: let’s make up for the sake of our countries and the world.

“The history of Russian-American relations shows that when we act as equal partners and respect each other’s lawful interests, we are able to successfully resolve the most complex international issues for the benefit of both countries’ peoples and all of humanity,” said Mr. Putin. “The positive experience of the past would help to set the dialogue between Russia and the United States back on a constructive track thus enabling both countries to counter more effectively the threats and challenges facing the international community today.

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Putin’s statement follows Mr. Obama's attempt to mend the countries’ frayed relationship by proposing a new military partnership in Syria. However, other foreign policy sticking points could prevent the two leaders from truly moving on. 

A week before Putin’s message was published on the official website of the Kremlin, Obama proposed the two countries unite to fight Jabhat al-Nusra, Al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, which has primarily fought the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, reported The Washington Post. In partnering, Russia would also agree to pressure Mr. Assad not to bomb US-backed rebels, proposed Obama. The American and Russian militaries “would cooperate at an unprecedented level, something the Russians have sought for a long time,” wrote the Post’s Josh Rogin. The Kremlin has not directly responded to Obama’s proposal, according to Russia Today.

Obama and Putin’s pitches to each other are, in a way, their attempts to cool tensions over Ukraine, Syria, as well as the US and NATO’s military presence in Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean Sea. The conflicts in Ukraine and Syria “have contributed to heated tensions between the US and Russia and revived cold war antagonism,” wrote The Christian Science Monitor’s Fred Weir in February.

The Kremlin, in particular, believes “that NATO has surrounded Russia with a ring of hostile military bases, that US support for Ukraine’s Maidan revolution was intended to tear a historic ally out of Moscow’s orbit, and that Washington has been supporting terrorism by backing rebel forces in Syria,” writes Mr. Weir. The US, meanwhile, has condemned Russia’s intrusion in Ukraine, and support of Assad.

An American-built, anti-ballistic missile system NATO opened in Romania in May has further angered Russia. Washington said the system, the Aegis Ashore, is to protect only against  “rogue” states, particularly Iran, and not Russia, according to The New York Times. Russia said the system can launch Tomahawk cruise missiles, which it said violates a 1987 treaty meant to diffuse the countries’ nuclear alerts. The US denied having any Tomahawk Land Attack Missile at the site in Romania. Meanwhile, the countries’ militaries have jostled each other in the sea and in the air.

They have accused each other of dangerous approaches in international waters and airspace. In the latest cold-war style incident, the Russian Defense Ministry said a US destroyer approached a Russian warship, which Russia said was a flagrant violation of rules to avoid collisions at sea. A US Defense official told Reuters the Russian warship carried out "unsafe and unprofessional" operations near two US Navy ships.

The Post’s Mr. Rogin reported in June Russian harassment and intimidation of US diplomats is at an all-time high.

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The Obama administration declined to comment on Putin’s message Monday, CNN reported.