- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 24, 2001

President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin sketched a defensive framework in Genoa, Italy, that could dramatically redefine the U.S.-Russian relationship. It is a major triumph for a president derided by many as a novice in international affairs.
On Sunday, the two leaders said in a joint communique that they had agreed in principle that the United States could pursue its missile defense plans, provided both countries committed to a reduction in their nuclear arsenals. The two countries said they will be launching consultations to flesh out numbers and logistics behind the idea. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who will be traveling to Moscow this week, said these consultations will be put on an "aggressive schedule."
And, while Miss Rice and other White House officials will likely be challenged in negotiating with the Russians the numbers and timetable behind the concept drafted Sunday, the agreement between Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin marks a dramatic change in Moscow's position towards U.S. missile defense. Last year, Mr. Putin threatened to withdraw from every arms-control agreement if the United States abrogated the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, while former President Clinton timidly tried to negotiate with Mr. Putin, developing a limited land-based U.S. missile defense system in exchange for new arms-reduction treaty.
But with the entrance of Mr. Bush, who has consistently said the United States will strive to develop a missile defense system regardless of Moscow's position, Mr. Putin had new incentives to show flexibility on this issue. Significantly, there is also another significant dynamic emerging. Beginning in Slovenia, Mr. Bush has been steadily convincing Mr. Putin that the United States and Russia, in wake of the end of the Cold War, are not natural enemies. In fact, the two countries have many defense concerns in common, such as protecting themselves from a potential rogue attack.
"We agreed that major changes in the world require concrete discussion of both offensive and defensive systems," the statement issued by the two leaders said. Of course, one of those "major changes in the world" is the demise of the Soviet Union and an overdue need, therefore, to forge a new U.S.-Russian relationship. The White House's commitment to a U.S. missile defense appears to be defusing residual tensions between the two former Cold War adversaries, which is most ironic, considering the fear-mongering of many Democrats in connection with Mr. Bush's missile defense plans.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle was one of the worst offenders last week with his myopic and shamelessly partisan comments to USA Today. While Mr. Bush was trying to advance U.S. interests at the Group of Eight (G-8) meeting in Genoa, Mr. Daschle sought to undermine Mr. Bush's potential foreign policy victories, claiming the White House was "isolating ourselves, and in so isolating ourselves, I think we are minimizing ourselves."
In making these comments, Mr. Daschle not only put his political priorities above the country's well-being, but he demonstrated his foreign policy ineptitude. After all, it is Mr. Bush's willingness to pursue unilaterally U.S. interests that is generating improved U.S.-Russian relations.
Furthermore, as Russia's relationship with the United States consolidates, U.S. adversaries will lose a crucial member of their informal alliance. This is no small victory for the Bush team.

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