By Jill Dougherty reporting from Dublin, Ireland
Amid reports that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may be preparing to use chemical weapons, the United States is making a new diplomatic push to end the conflict that has killed at least 40,000 people.
In Dublin for a European security meeting, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet Thursday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and take part in a three-way meting with Lavrov and U.N. Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.
"They had an exchange on how extremely seriously we need to be in continuing to send messages about the red lines and unacceptability of use or loss of control of chemical weapons," a senior State Department official told CNN after Clinton's first meeting with Lavrov in Dublin. "Secretary Clinton thanked Minister Lavrov for his strong public statements on that."
Russia has blocked action against al-Assad at the United Nations, but diplomats say that Moscow, which has insisted there should be no "regime change" in Syria, now increasingly doubts that al-Assad can survive in power. Brahimi has not yet proposed a specific plan to try to end the fighting, but Clinton and Lavrov did work one out in June in Geneva.
By Mike Mount
The U.S. Navy detected and tracked a Russian nuclear-powered attack submarine less than 300 miles from the southern U.S. East Coast last month, according to U.S. defense officials.
While the submarine did not enter U.S. territorial waters or follow any U.S. Navy ships, its arrival came while a Navy carrier strike group was training off Florida, according to defense officials who could not speak publicly because of the sensitivity of the issue.
The move by the Russians to put the ship close to the U.S. demonstrates its desire to ramp up deep-water patrolling by its submarine fleet - something the Russian government has said it would do, officials said.
The newer Sierra-2 submarine is thought to be part of the Russian Northern Fleet, and this is the first time this class of sub has been detected this close to the U.S., the officials said.
The war in Syria has prompted another war of words internationally, with Russia slamming a report that accuses the Syrian air force used Russian-made cluster bombs on rebels.
"There is no confirmation to this. ... There are loads of weapons in this region, including in Syria and other countries of the region, and arms are supplied there in large quantities and illegally," Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, according to Russia's RIA Novosti news agency.
Citing witnesses and videos, Human Rights Watch released a report Sunday saying Syrian government forces were using cluster bombs - explosives that can kill or disfigure anyone hit by its fragments.
The report says the cluster bombs are Soviet-made, though it does not state how or when Syria allegedly acquired them.FULL STORY
By Jill Dougherty, CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent
The State Department maintained Thursday that a long-standing partnership with Russia to dismantle and safeguard weapons of mass destruction from the Soviet Union's once-massive arsenal is not dead, as Russian media has reported.
Russian officials, however, indicated they had no intention of extending the agreement - at least in its present form - dealing a serious blow to cooperation between the two countries.
The Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program, which has spent approximately $7 billion in its two decades, financed primarily by the U.S. government, has deactivated more than 7,500 nuclear warheads, implemented security upgrades at Russian's nuclear storage sites, neutralized chemical weapons, safeguarded fissile materials, converted weapons facilities for peaceful use, and mitigated biological threats.
"We are still in talks," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington Thursday. Russia officials "have told us that they want revisions to the previous agreement. We are prepared to work with them on those revisions, and we want to have conversations about it."
But in Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying, "Our American partners know that their proposal is at odds with our ideas about the forms and basis for building further cooperation in that area."
By Jamie Crawford
Editor’s Note: Over the next week, CNN's national security reporters and producers will be looking at some of the most poignant differences between the two candidates on the most pressing foreign policy issues. Watch for the stories all week on CNN. More from Election Center
The protests and violence at American diplomatic missions across the Middle East and North Africa last week steered the 2012 presidential race into somewhat unchartered territory - a debate over U.S. foreign policy.
While the topic certainly has not been absent in the rhetorical sparring between President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney, most of the campaign's focus thus far has been a battle over who has the best prescription to jolt a seemingly sluggish economic recovery.
But that changed last week. Romney's charge the United States was too quick to condemn a film that insulted Muslims before condemning the violence directed at American diplomatic missions abroad spurred Obama's claim that Romney had a tendency to "shoot first and aim later." And all this talk has opened a window on an area that is sure to consume a great deal of attention for whomever sits in the Oval Office next January.
The list of foreign policy challenges facing the United States is daunting - including an awakening in the Arab world with a direction still unknown, a looming nuclear crisis with Iran and an uncertain future in Afghanistan (and neighboring Pakistan) once U.S. troops withdraw in 2014.
And let's not forget a bloody civil war in Syria, where the fate of thousands of biological and chemical weapons also hang in the balance. Then there are fiscal issues, from debt crises plaguing Europe to economic and geo-political challenges posed by a rising China.
Here is a look at some of the most pressing foreign policy issues facing the United States, and how the candidates who seek to lead the country approach them.
From CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty
Vladivostok, the site of this year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, is more than 5,000 miles from Moscow, seven times zones to the east. The word means “Ruler of the East” and the Russian government wants to make good on the promise of that name.
“When the decision was made that we would hold the chairmanship several years ago we thought that it would give a general boost to the whole region of Far East Russia,” says Mikhail Kalugin, Acting Head of Economic Section at the Russian Embassy in Washington.
Russia and China back the U.S. pressure on Iran, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told CNN's Jessica Yellin in an exclusive interview.
"With respect to these very stringent sanctions, Russia and China have been cooperating," Clinton said.
By Jill Dougherty
As Russia finally joins the World Trade Organization, U.S. business leaders are warning Congress that American companies could be left in the dust as other countries move in to take advantage of Russia's lower trade barriers.
"The whole world is ready - except the United States. Until Congress approves PNTR (permanent normal trade relations legislation) with Russia, Moscow will be free to deny the United States the full benefits of its reforms," said a statement from U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue.
Congress broke for its August recess without passing PNTR legislation. The Chamber and other business organizations are calling on legislators to pass it when they return in September.
Three members of Russian female punk rock band Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in prison Friday after they were found guilty of hooliganism for performing a song critical of President Vladimir Putin in a church.
The five months they have spent in detention since their arrests in March count toward the sentence, Judge Marina Sirovaya said.
The judge said the charges against the three women - Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich - had been proved by witnesses and the facts.
The Pussy Riot members were charged after screaming, "Mother Mary, please drive Putin away," in a protest act in February inside Christ Savior Cathedral, one of Moscow's grandest houses of worship.
By Jill Dougherty
Wringing its hands over the escalating violence in Syria, Russia on Thursday said the international community should set a deadline for the Syrian government and opposition fighters to stop fighting.
Moscow's envoy to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, said countries that have failed to bring the killing to an end should make "a joint or parallel appeal to all the parties of the Syrian conflict that they end violence as soon as possible by a certain point in time."
In spite of the fact that almost 200 Syrians now are dying every day in the civil war, the Russian diplomat insisted a political solution is still possible and said other countries should urge the government of President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition to appoint negotiators who could establish a transitional governing body for Syria.
If that sounds familiar, it should; the proposal is part of a six-point plan put forward by former U.N. special envoy on Syria, Kofi Annan, who quit this month after failing to stop the bloodshed.