- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 25, 2003

President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin will be eager to restore their once-friendly relationship during their summit in Camp David today and tomorrow. Beyond the anticipated soul-gazing, the two leaders will have some weighty specifics to discuss, from Iraq and Iran to the potential for growing Islamic militancy in former Soviet states.

Mr. Putin would welcome the prospect of emerging from the U.N. General Assembly meeting this week as the conciliatory party on a new U.N. resolution on Iraq, working to bridge the divide between, on one side, Moscow, Paris and Berlin and, on the other, Washington. Such a role would bolster Russia’s geopolitical prominence and allow Mr. Putin to help the United States without appearing submissive. The United States stands only to gain from obliging Mr. Putin this role. Yesterday, Mr. Putin dropped earlier demands, made also by Germany and France, that the United States set a timeline for withdrawing from Iraq — proving its willingness to be accommodating in drafting a new resolution.

On Iran, Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin will strive to forge a common policy on how to deal with Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The U.N. nuclear watchdog said yesterday that it has found traces of enriched uranium in Iran at the Kalaye Electric Co. Russia has been helping Iran develop a pressurized-water-power reactor that wouldn’t be suitable for developing nuclear weapons, but provides the Iranians with nuclear know-how. Moscow, therefore, has a business and diplomatic relationship with Tehran that Washington could effectively leverage. But first, Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin would have to agree on what combination of carrots and sticks should be brought to bear on Iran. Washington might consider, for example, allowing Russia’s reactor project to go forward in Iran, if the regime in Tehran agrees to unannounced and unfettered inspections.

Mr. Bush also will want Russia’s assessment of some former Soviet countries in Central Asia, some of which are governed by corrupt governments and incubating an increasingly radical and restless Islamic population. Should militancy grow in that region, the United States, Russia and China could all be affected. Messrs. Bush and Putin should devise strategies on how to stem this militancy and potentially deal with it if it intensifies.

It is unclear if the two world leaders will be doing the courting at the summit. Recruiting Mr. Putin’s cooperation on a range of issues can help the United States on the global stage. Mr. Putin values his relationship with the world’s only superpower, particularly since it extricates Russia from the rogue status some have assigned it. Both leaders are convinced they face similar threats and interests, and they seem intent to re-establish a working relationship, a determination that Mr. Bush and French President Jacques Chirac clearly haven’t made.

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