- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Russian President Vladimir Putin, already under pressure at home for conceding too much to the United States in recent months, faced renewed criticism yesterday following the news of Monday's landmark deal to cut U.S. and Russian offensive nuclear weapons stocks.
The deal was not even mentioned in the leading Russian military newspaper yesterday, and several nationalist lawmakers said Mr. Putin had given up too much in his desire to strike a deal in time for next week's summit with President Bush in Moscow.
U.S. negotiators said the Kremlin dropped its previous insistence that the United States destroy the thousands of missiles to be taken out of service in the agreement. The Pentagon would like to store many of those missiles, and the four-page accord approved Monday allows the United States to do that.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said the Russian government would continue to press for the destruction of the missiles, but Moscow critics said that did not go far enough.
State Duma lawmaker Alexei Mitrofanov, a leading crit ic of Mr. Putin's pro-Western tilt since September 11, accused the Kremlin of "doing a favor to the United States."
"They form a shield, and we break our sword. We must reserve the right to have as many missiles as possible so that we could deploy them under every tree," he told reporters in Moscow.
While not threatening Mr. Putin's dominant political position at home, many among Russia's foreign policy and security elites have been openly unhappy with what they see as series of concessions to the West, and to Washington in particular, in recent months.
Mr. Putin reacted mildly when Mr. Bush announced a decision to pull out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty last year and has also expressed only muted unhappiness with NATO's proposed expansion into Eastern Europe and the Baltics long a sore point for Moscow.
The U.S.-led war on terrorism has also seen American troops deployed to areas long seen in Moscow as part of Russia's natural sphere of influence, including Central Asia and Georgia.
Mr. Putin's critics at home contend he has gotten little in return for his concessions.
"Russia has conceded a lot," Leonid Ivashov, vice president of the Moscow-based Geopolitical Studies Academy, said this week, "but I don't see any positive response from the United States."
Hopes that a U.S. rapprochement would aid Russia's still-struggling economy have been damaged by a trade war over poultry and by Mr. Bush's decision to slap higher duties on imported steel a direct blow to Russian exporters heavily tilted toward heavy industry.
A study released last week by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies said Mr. Putin's overt support for the West in recent months carried "considerable political risks."
"Putin's policy continues to draw criticism within the security elites in Russia, partly because of the strengthened U.S. and Western military presence in Central Asia," the report noted. "While overall, Putin's audacious policies have paid off domestically and internationally, there remains a need for him to be able to demonstrate at home his gains abroad."

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