- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 25, 2003

At the Camp David summit, which started yesterday, Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin should put the recent differences over Iraq behind and focus on defeating al Qaeda and rebuilding Iraq. The two leaders recognize global terrorism is a strategic threat to their countries. Failure in Iraq and destabilization of the Middle East is against Russian interests, Mr. Putin’s advisers say.

Recently, Mr. Putin signaled a willingness to negotiate an acceptable formula for Moscow’s support of a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing U.N. peacekeepers to Iraq under U.S. command. Progress in such negotiations — and in the strategic U.S.-Russian relationship — will depend on the quid pro quo the U.S. offers. As early as the fall of 2001, high-level officials in Moscow had signaled recognition of Russian economic interests in Iraq could secure Moscow’s support of the war, but the U.S. disregarded their overtures.

Disagreements over Iraq — combined with the Moscow elite’s perception that Russia has little to show for its unprecedented cooperation with Washington after September 11, 2001 — have marred U.S.-Russian solidarity in the war on terrorism. This resulted in Russia siding with France and Germany in opposition to the U.S.-led liberation of Iraq.

Russian policymakers have also criticized the relationship as a one-way street. Russia’s acquiescence in the U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, to NATO enlargement and to the U.S. deployment of forces in the Southern Caucasus and Central Asia are often cited as examples of the United States taking advantage of Russia. There is also dissatisfaction in Moscow as Congress failed to annul the obsolete 1974 Jackson-Vanick Amendment, which symbolically restricts the U.S. Permanent Normal Trade Relations with Russia.

The Russian criticism that the U.S.-Russian relationship is one-sided may have some validity. But to be fair, since September 11, the United States has taken steps toward Moscow by declaring Chechen extremists international terrorists and by pursuing cooperation with Russian companies on ballistic missile defense.

And while all politics are local, all foreign policy is domestic: Russian foreign policy is influenced by the political struggle in Moscow between the Westernizers and authoritarians. Some of Mr. Putin’s allies, especially from the secret police, nuclear power and defense circles, still harbor anti-American sentiments and insist on Russia’s “special path.” This includes building military and political influence in Eurasia, coordinating policies with China and Iran, and selling arms to them.

Russian nuclear technology transfer to Tehran is particularly dangerous and destabilizing. The new Russian overtures to Organization of Islamic Conference and to Saudi Arabia are also a signal Russia is keeping open the option of cutting a “separate deal” with the Islamic world in the hope to prevent terrorist operations on its soil.

Thus, the success of this summit is crucial. Restoring the U.S.-Russian antiterrorism alliance may trigger other major powers — such as Germany, India and Turkey — to support U.S.-led efforts to shore up Iraqi security and economy. It may encourage competition between other states to offer peacekeepers and support for the U.S. on Iraq, Iran and North Korea.

At Camp David, President Bush should request Russian support for the U.S. draft of the U.N. resolution authorizing U.N. peacekeepers for Iraq under U.S. military command while rejecting the French demands for a hasty transfer of power to the Iraqis. Mr. Putin and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov have signaled Russia will support U.N. peacekeepers under U.S. command in Iraq.

Mr. Bush should also invite Russian participation in the U.N. peacekeeping force for Iraq. While Russia’s ambassador to the U.N. has ruled out Russian troops in Iraq, peacekeepers could provide training, emergency relief and oil pipeline security. Russia currently has up to 10,000 experienced peacekeepers, who adequately cooperated with American troops in Bosnia and Kosovo.

President Bush should offer expansion of Russian participation in the reconstruction of Iraq. Russian companies have up to $1 billion in contracts to rebuild Iraq. The U.S.S.R. constructed the Iraqi power grid, which is in need of major refurbishing. Russian oil companies have contracts to increase production in the depleted Iraqi oil fields. Doubling the value of these contracts would provide Moscow with an incentive to cooperate.

President Bush should stress that a nuclear-armed Iran will pose a strategic threat to Russia and request Russian cooperation in preventing further development of the Iranian uranium enrichment and nuclear weapons program. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced it had found traces of weapons-grade uranium in Iran. Russia has expressed support for intrusive inspections under the IAEA’s “additional protocol” and expects to conclude a spent fuel repatriation agreement with Tehran. However, Iran is threatening to follow North Korea and withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Finally, Mr. Bush should expand U.S.-Russian cooperation on missile defense. Boeing and RTI, a leading Russian radar manufacturer, have recently signed a memorandum of understanding to study radar architecture for a joint missile defense program. The president should use the summit to expand this partnership.

The Camp David summit is a strategic opportunity to put U.S.-Russian relations back on track. If successful, Presidents Bush and Putin will contribute to achieving security and peace in Iraq and strengthening the struggle against international terrorism.

Ariel Cohen is research fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

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