- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 25, 2001

The dramatic warming in U.S.-Russia relations could herald an era of pragmatism in global affairs as the two old rivals finally end decades of hostility and become friends.
While a new world order is not emerging, cooperation and common interests are more likely to resolve disputes among the major powers, analysts say. That should reduce tension and boost joint efforts on tackling common threats such as terrorism.
The emerging friendship between the United States and Russia, if it matures, could make them genuine partners for the first time. Moscow's support for the United States after the September 11 terrorist attacks and moves by President Bush and President Vladimir Putin to cut nuclear arsenals mark a major turnaround.
"Washington and Moscow are no longer playing the 'big game' against each other, but with each other," said Karl-Heinz Kamp, an analyst at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, a German think tank.
Both leaders are seen as practical men who share some fundamental attitudes about handling foreign affairs. This new brand of pragmatism, markedly different from the ideological divisions of the Cold War, is shared by a growing number of world leaders.
"We have very pragmatic leaders in George Bush and Putin. You have high degrees of pragmatism in Europe you are not talking about ideologues, you are not talking about conflicting strategic interests; you are talking about people used to finding pragmatic solutions to eminently solvable problems," said Anthony Cordesman, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
All of this is in stark contrast to the friction that dogged U.S.-Russian relations in the past decade. After the heady optimism that followed the 1991 Soviet collapse, Russia soon complained it was not being treated as an equal by Washington and became increasingly resentful.
Moscow fell back into some Cold War habits, becoming an irritant in U.S. foreign policy and reviving Soviet-era ties with Iraq and other U.S. foes. A sulky, often belligerent Russia tried to sabotage Western diplomatic efforts in areas such as the former Yugoslavia. There was talk in Moscow of building an alliance to counter U.S. "hegemony."
But even before September 11 and the Bush-Putin summit, there were signs that relations were improving and becoming increasingly pragmatic.
Mr. Putin, an ex-KGB officer who watched the collapse of the Soviet system, has a clear vision of restoring Russia as a great power by making it part of an enlarged Western community. He wants to Westernize Russia's economy and many of its institutions to reverse decades of decline.
"Russia considers itself, or wants to consider itself, part of the North Atlantic community," said Viktor Kremenyuk, deputy head of the USA and Canada Institute in Moscow.
Mr. Bush is much more aware of the need for international cooperation and consultation since the attacks, analysts say. The rest of the world hopes Washington will be less likely to go it alone on foreign issues and more willing to accept alliances and treaties.
"If there is a change, it's in Bush. I don't think there's been that much change in Putin, frankly," said Ivo Daalder, an analyst at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
"Putin has been very consistent about wanting to be a partner, an equal partner, with the United States in many things," he said.
Improving U.S.-Russian relations will make the world a safer place, but analysts warn against any euphoria about a new world order that will end global disputes. Even allies have conflicting interests, such as Russian opposition to U.S. plans to build an anti-missile defense system, and there are many nations and groups that oppose Western interests.
"The fact that things are getting better doesn't create a new world order," said Mr. Cordesman.
And while Mr. Putin is eager to Westernize the Russian economy, there are doubts about his commitment to democracy. It will be difficult for the United States and Russia to be true allies as long as Moscow practices authoritarian policies at home.
"It's too early to say the degree to which the world really has changed," said Pia Bungarten, an analyst in Bonn.
"What you need in the long run is further democratization to improve chances people can live in peace within nations and between nations," she said.
Barry Renfrew was the Moscow bureau chief for the Associated Press from 1993 to 2000.


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