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ANALYSIS-Breakthroughs unlikely at Shanghai Bush-Putin talks
October 17, 2001
By Ron Popeski

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin predicted Wednesday a new boost in ties with Washington ahead of an Asian summit and talks with President Bush, but analysts said progress on key issues could require more time.

Putin leaves Friday for the summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation in Shanghai, a chance for the president to express fresh solidarity with the drive against terrorism and press for Russia's entry to the WTO global trade body.

He meets Bush for the third time at the close of the 21-nation summit, certain to be dominated by the campaign against Afghanistan to flush out of hiding Osama bin Laden, held responsible by Washington for last month's attacks.

"We openly support the United States in the struggle against terrorism," he told new ambassadors presenting their credentials in the Kremlin. "I hope the forthcoming meeting with Mr. Bush in Shanghai and my planned visit to the United States will strengthen the positive development (in relations)."

Ties between Moscow and Washington got off to a bumpy start at the outset of Bush's presidency but improved after summits in Slovenia and at the G8 summit in Genoa. They received a further boost by Russia's commitment to the U.S.-led campaign and agreement to use its airspace for humanitarian missions.


But the Shanghai talks ahead of Putin's visit to Bush's Texas ranch next month tackle issues put into the background by the anti-terror drive, especially disagreement over U.S. plans to overturn a major arms control pact and build a missile shield.

"The emotional climate has changed since September, so you can expect no deterioration at the talks, certainly not on the public aspects of relations," said Boris Makarenko, deputy director of the Center for Political Technologies think tank.

"But issues like arms control always start with kisses and smiles while going on for months and years at the expert level. A mechanism will have to be found and there should be no unduly high expectations."

Alongside his pledge to back Washington against terrorism, Putin has set out a series of positions aimed at redefining Russia's post-Soviet position with the West.

He told the German parliament -- in German -- last month that the Cold War was over and Moscow now expected more than a rubber stamp role in decision-making. He then said Russia could even drop its opposition to a new wave of NATO expansion if it were involved in the process.

Wednesday, he announced Russia was closing its electronic eavesdropping center in Cuba, heralding the end of four decades of Russian military presence close to the U.S. coast.

Putin has been rewarded by praise in Washington and other European capitals, particularly London and Berlin. Western leaders formerly critical of Russia's military drive against Chechen separatists expressed new understanding, within limits, for Russia's actions there.

But Bush made plain he still intended to scrap the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty and build the shield to preempt strikes by "rogue states" like North Korea, Iran and Iraq.


Russia has adopted a more flexible position in recent months on the issue, accepting that ABM may now undergo change. Analysts said the issue was never about to be resolved quickly and would require long discussions by military experts.

"Ninety percent of talks on missile defense involve trust. Experts examine the rest to find points in common," said Mikhail Pogorely, Director of the Center for War and Peace Journalism.

"Don't expect any breakthroughs. And China is not necessarily the best place as neither side has shied away from using possible Chinese reaction as a trump card."

China has also objected strongly to a proposed shield, particularly any regional variation which could be used to defend Taiwan, seen by Beijing as a renegade province.

Sergei Luzyanin, Deputy Director of the Russia-China Analytical Center, said there could be three-way dialogue in Shanghai on the missile issue also involving Chinese President Jiang Zemin, especially after Beijing's tacit approval for the anti-terror campaign.

"I don't believe a zero option on either side is likely on the missile issue with either side giving way completely," he said. "Some compromise may take shape. The Chinese are also ready for this but politically they may not say so."

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