- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 19, 2001

When President Bush meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-8 summit in Genoa, Italy, tomorrow he will surely seek to emphasize the potential for a U.S.-Russian partnership just as he did last time he met with Mr. Putin, in Slovenia in June. He may even surprise the country with another memorable description of the Russian president. "I looked the man in the eye," Mr. Bush said of Mr. Putin last month, adding "I was able to get a sense of his soul."
This type of post-Cold-War soul gazing may be innocuous enough, but on Friday, Mr. Bush should test his newfound rapport with Mr. Putin and carefully broach some thornier subjects, such as the war in Chechnya, the Russian crackdown on the media and U.S. plans for missile defense. In the wake of the United States' recent success in testing a missile interceptor over the Pacific Ocean, Russian rhetoric concerning the administration's missile defense ambitions has grown more strident.
The missile test leads to a situation "which threatens all international treaties in the sphere of nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation which are based on the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty," said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Alexander Yakovenko. And while Mr. Putin said last month that unilateral abandonment of the ABM Treaty "can only make more complicated various problems and issues," Mr. Yakovenko's statement appears to reflect a hardening of Moscow's position.
So presumably, Moscow's opposition to U.S. missile defense will stiffen as the viability of a U.S. missile defense system becomes more proximate. Although the White House should carry through its missile tests despite criticism from the Kremlin, Mr. Bush should also put his diplomatic talents to work in Genoa to pre-empt future conflicts. After all, there is quite a lot that Moscow wants which the United States could help it attain under the right circumstances.
According to Alan Simpson, formerly a Republican senator, who recently visited Moscow in collaboration on a report with the East West Institute, Mr. Putin is willing to negotiate with the United States on a wide range of issues. The Russian president met with the task force that worked on the report on Russia, telling them "I do not intend to let things get to boiling point … There's nothing I have off the table," Mr. Simpson recounted to editors at The Washington Times.
Surely, these comments are encouraging. If Mr. Bush demonstrates a willingness to help Russia gain entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO), given appropriate reform, than Moscow may come to see U.S. missile defense in a friendlier light. Russia's entrance to the WTO could help energize the Russian economy and contribute to global security, since Moscow might show a greater willingness to stop arms exports to rogue nations once it gains greater economic stability.
Surely, incorporating Russia into NATO is not in the cards for any part of the foreseeable future. Still, Mr. Bush should encourage first-world democratic standards to take root in Russia and discourage Mr. Putin from engaging in rogue nation alliances. In Genoa, Mr. Bush should demonstrate to the United States and Russia that he is prepared to do some heavy lifting.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide