In an interview posted on the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily's website on Tuesday, to a question whether the former Cold War rival superpowers were now allies or enemies, the minister replied: "It's not entirely clear."

  

"Just like the Americans don't understand exactly who the Russians are; it has been stated that they are not enemies, but it's also certain that they aren't allies either," he said.

  

Ivanov tempered his remarks by saying that Moscow today did not view Washington "from the stance of a military adversary, but from one of economic partnership".

 

Pragmatic

 

But he added that "numerous stereotypes" persisted about each other.

 

Russia had to "approach this pragmatically and follow its own interests as the Americans have always done and will continue to do so", he said.

  

Ivanov also criticised what he described as support by the US administration for the separatist movement in Russia's breakaway republic of Chechnya.

  

"As long as they see fleeing Chechen rebels as freedom fighters, it will be difficult for us to find a common approach" in the fight against “terrorism”, he said.