- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 13, 2001

Russian President Vladimir Putin insists he hasn't come to haggle, but an extraordinary range of issues will be on the bargaining table as he meets President Bush this morning for the fourth and most far-reaching summit between the two leaders this year.
U.S. gratitude for Mr. Putin's early and forthright support in the hours after the September 11 terrorist attacks plus Kremlin hints of new flexibility on missile defense and other security issues have vastly expanded the range of potential cooperation between Moscow and Washington, both sides say.
The positive mood is so pronounced that senior officials on both sides have tried to play down expectations for the summit, which begins at the White House this morning and then moves to Mr. Bush's Crawford, Texas, ranch for more informal discussions tomorrow.
Briefing reporters last week on the summit, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said overall relations had improved and there was a more positive tone to U.S.-Russian talks on missile defense and nuclear-arms cuts.
"But I wouldn't expect any particular moment in which you tie it all up with a red ribbon," Miss Rice cautioned.
Mr. Putin arrived in Washington last night, refusing to be delayed by uncertainty surrounding the crash of an American Airlines jet in New York City. He told reporters in Moscow over the weekend he was not looking for "repayment" for his strong backing of the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan.
"Russia is not bargaining. It is not trying to make a deal," Mr. Putin said.
But in the same session Mr. Putin voiced hopes that Moscow and Washington could move beyond Cold War security stalemates, that the cooperation against terrorism could be extended to other fields, and that access to Western markets for Russian energy and Russian industrial goods could be increased.
Missile defense and arms cuts will be the headline issues at the talks, with administration officials increasingly hopeful that serious progress can be made.
Mr. Bush is pressing for Russian acceptance of a new "strategic framework" that will go beyond the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and permit U.S. testing and deployment of a national missile-defense shield. Closely linked to the ABM issue are discussions about deep cuts in Russian and U.S. nuclear warhead arsenals, which Mr. Putin sorely needs to ease his budgetary woes.
Mr. Putin is under heavy pressure from his military advisers, including Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, not to abandon the ABM Treaty, but the Kremlin has hinted at a possible technical fudge in which extensive U.S. missile-defense testing could proceed with the ABM Treaty at least nominally preserved.
Said Russian military analyst Alexander Golts: "Most likely, Washington and Moscow have simply decided to make use of the ABM Treaty's complexity as a way out of their dead end."
A potential compromise on the ABM Treaty could be politically risky for Mr. Bush. Many supporters of his missile-defense idea say preserving even a watered-down ABM Treaty could hamper U.S. development efforts.
Mr. Putin has also softened Russia's rejection of a proposed expansion of NATO next year, which could include three Baltic states on Russia's doorstep.
Mr. Putin's close identification with the United States and the West since September 11 has been politically risky among the military ranks at home who oppose both the missile-defense plan and the buildup of U.S. forces on Russia's southern flank as past the campaign in Afghanistan.
Despite his professed aversion to bargaining, Mr. Putin has brought a long wish list of his own.
Russia, the world's third-largest oil producer, is seeking assured access to Western markets for its huge oil reserves. Mr. Putin is also expected to press Mr. Bush to support Russia's World Trade Organization bid, ease its international debt load, and remove barriers to Russian exports to the U.S. market.
The Russian leader has reportedly worked hard to enhance the unlikely personal bond he has established with Mr. Bush in recent months.


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