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From: "Peter Lavelle" <plavelle@metropol.ru>
Subject: Untimely Thoughts
Date: Mon, 12 Nov 2001

Peter Lavelle: Untimely Thoughts -
The suspension of disbelief and Bolshevik Bushism (re: to the Crawford Summit)

One wonders if the Crawford Summit might be remembered as an occasion of the highest hopes bringing about the most marginal results. Maybe it will be seen as a lost opportunity - PR and photo-ops undermining important policy imperatives. Then again, it might be the beginning of a new world order. I very much doubt the world will remember the Crawford Summit as a turning point in history. Though the city of Waco may attempt to rehabilitate its tarnished name with the Russian president's transit visit.

There has been quite a bit of attention paid to both Bush and Putin proclaiming the end of the Cold War. While both presidents have started to talk about the obvious ten years after the fact, most of the world has been pursuing foreign policy agendas with this knowledge in mind. Those countries and peoples subject to the bipolar war of the Soviet-American conflict of the last century seem to have adapted better and faster than the former alliance leaders.

Both the US and Russia continue to hang on to the past to define their respective identities in this perilous present. The US mistakenly believes it won the Cold War because of its superior value system. The same error has led the US to believe the entire world would embrace American values (and money) if only they were given the chance. Russia simply cannot accept that its 300-year history of being a major power in the world has come to an end (until it can reform its economy to be truly open and competitive). Both confront and engage each other through the past, only the terrorist attacks have brought both countries into the present for the moment. There is no doubt that this is important, but it is still not enough. Misery, it would appear, loves miserable company.

Due to 9/11, the US is taking a new look at Russia out of pure self-interest. Russia is the same county it was before that date, it remains so since that date. Because of the terror attacks against the US, there is a suspension of disbelief concerning Russia. Suddenly Russia can be everything the US desires in an ally. In doing so, the US may be suspending values and policies that could make Russia a strong ally (one day). The clear and present danger of international terrorism brings both countries closer - little else does.

Bush needs, like the old Bolshevik slogan, to 'organize a victory' at almost any price against the forces behind the 9/11 tragedy. Putin needs to be reassured that Russia still means something in the world. Putin wants Russia to be seen as it has historically defined itself - a military power. This is a mistake; this is a strategy of reinforcing the past.

The most sober strategy both countries should follow is to pool resources against international terrorism (now) while realistically reinforcing Putin domestic reform program (in the near and medium-term). The worst outcome of the Texan summit would the reinforcement of what both countries desire for only short-term policy imperatives. The war against international terrorism is going to take years, Russia's reform prospects just as long.

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