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Bush And Putin Still Partners

Better days at the Ranch...
By Vladimir Simonov
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Jul 18, 2007
Russian President Vladimir Putin's two-day stay at the Bush family home in Kennebunkport, Maine, was more fruitful than the press and political analysts expected. They thought the two presidents would mainly discuss ways to maintain good relations between the United States and Russia after they step down. They thought Putin and U.S. President George Bush would at best prevent them from going sour and restart a constructive dialogue.

But the two presidents have done something more important. They peered into the common future of their countries.

Strangely, this common future may be based on a new global early-warning system embracing Russia, the United States and European countries. Putin advanced the idea as an improvement on his previous proposal on the joint use of the Gabala radar in Azerbaijan.

He suggested setting up centers for exchanging missile-defense data in Moscow and Brussels, where NATO headquarters is located, and jointly using a radar that is being built in southern Russia, in addition to the early-warning facility in Gabala, in real time.

Putin believes this will gradually turn relations between Moscow and Washington into a strategic partnership. He said that these new relations in the sphere of international security will encourage closer political ties between the two states, and eventually have a beneficial effect on their economic contacts.

"The deck has been dealt, and we are here to play. And I would very much hope that we are playing one and the same game," Putin said at a news conference in Kennebunkport.

Bush described it as "a very constructive and bold strategic move." However, this did not prevent him from saying that "the Czech Republic and Poland need to be an integral part of the (anti-ballistic missile) system."

This idea is very promising, but unfortunately, Putin and Bush have no time to help to make it come true. They are leaving office, and no departing leader in political history has ever attained breakthrough results at the final stage of his career.

At best, the two leaders' speeches in Kennebunkport can be regarded as advice for their successors.

Bush is in a worse situation than Putin. His contribution to American history has been marred by the Iraq war, which can end only in defeat or deep disappointment. No wonder he does not want to go down in history as the man who also lost Russia.

This is exactly how it looked before the presidents' meeting in Maine. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, the Bush administration developed very good relations with Russia, which had moved quickly to offer its help in the fight against international terrorism. But today, six years later, we hear more about what divides Russia and the United States than what unites them.

There are many reasons for that. For one, the two countries failed to develop a strategy for bilateral relations after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Another reason could be Washington's wariness of Russia's economic and political revival as an influential international player.

I don't think Putin and Bush wanted to squander their time on looking for the reasons behind the current cooling of bilateral relations, which is sometimes described as "a new Cold War." Instead, they worked to assuage tensions and stop relations from going downhill.

They mainly succeeded, I would say, thanks to the magic -- or chemistry -- of their personal relations. Bush, who "looked the man (Putin) in the eye [and) was able to get a sense of his soul" in 2001, still believes that his first impression was correct.

As he said in Kennebunkport, he doesn't like everything Putin says, "and I suspect he doesn't like everything I say. But we're able to say it in a way that shows mutual respect."

Putin and Bush know that the upcoming presidential campaigns will add zeal to the arguments of the nationalist Russia- and America-haters in their respective countries, who will try to benefit from a policy of mutual hostility. Therefore, the two presidents have agreed that they must prevent Russian-American understanding and partnership from becoming a hostage to internal political struggle.

I am glad that they discussed these problems during lunch in a resort town in Maine, rather than over the telephone from their cement bunkers. This inspires the hope that they will be able to pass on to their successors the vital goal of promoting harmony and cooperation between Russia and the United States.

(Vladimir Simonov is a political analyst for the RIA Novosti news agency. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.)

Source: RIA Novosti

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Russia Has Everything To Win By Freezing Treaty
Brussels (AFP) Jul 17, 2007
Russia has much to win by suspending, or even freezing, a key Soviet-era treaty limiting troops and arms in Europe and the West has little leverage to stop it, experts said Monday. The freeze, decreed by President Vladimir Putin for "exceptional circumstances" relating to Russia's security and due to take effect on December 12, is a new attempt to undermine US and NATO projects, the experts said.

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