- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 16, 2001

When President George W. Bush meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin today, he will articulate a seemingly foregone conclusion: The United States and Russia are no longer enemies, and should therefore develop foreign policy to reflect this post-Soviet era peace. But this very orthodox presumption, and its implications, has generated the most bitter criticism in Europe and Congress. And by challenging this central premise of Mr. Bushs world-view, these critics perpetuate a Cold War mistrust that alienates the United States and, ultimately, undermines Americas ability to protect itself.

Mr. Bush´s defense of a missile defense system highlights the belief that since Russia is no longer a U.S. adversary, the White House should reorient defense capabilities to counter other potential threats. Mr. Bush´s defense strategy is geared to protect the United States from a possible rogue-state attack, and not a Russian one. That being the case, America and Russia no longer need to observe the archaic and bizarre suicide pact that the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty represented. In a speech at Warsaw University yesterday, Mr. Bush said a missile defense system and an expanded NATO would help America and Europe move "beyond Cold War doctrines." He added, "NATO, even as it grows, is no enemy of Russia … America is no enemy of Russia."

Overall, Mr. Bush´s European tour has been successful, although his victories have hardly been highlighted by the media. On Wednesday, for example, all NATO members agreed to add at least one new member next year, a priority that was championed by the White House and resisted by some Europeans. In Warsaw, Mr. Bush was emphatic in his commitment to NATO enlargement, and equally so as regards rejecting a Russia veto over NATO invitations. The president did, however, strike an inclusive tone with regards to Russia and today´s meeting with Mr. Putin will show whether he is receptive to the U.S. president´s outstretched hand. "We want Russia to be a partner and an ally, a partner in peace, a partner in democracy, a country that embraces freedom, a country that enhances the security of Europe," Mr. Bush said.

It has to be said, however, that the Democratic leadership here in Washington seems to be goading Russia into opposition to missile defense. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle alleges that protection from missile attack could "undermine our nation politically, economically and strategically." No wonder Russia´s comments regarding missile defense, which were becoming increasingly conciliatory earlier this year, have become more strident since the Democrats won control of the Senate. This is myopic of Mr. Daschle and company, since a missile defense system, apart from providing America with invaluable protection, will embolden U.S. policy-makers to strike a more principled foreign policy, allocating generosity to those who most deserve or need it, rather than those that most frighten us.

And, finally, a revamped NATO and new defense strategy reflect a welcome vision of a 21st world order. Russia is now suppsed to be our friend. Right, Mr. Putin?

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