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Moskovsky Komsomolets
November 12, 2001
Putin and Bush No Longer Divided by Ideological Barriers
Putin has a chance to lasso America at a Texas ranch

By Melor Sturua

The Russian-American summit, which starts on November 12, is not so much diplomatic talks as an historic event.

Those who think that the main items on the agenda of the Bush-Putin summit will be the 1972 ABM Treaty, further cuts in the number of nuclear missiles in both countries and even the joint combating of international terrorism are wrong. To be sure, all these issues are very important and will be predominant during the diplomatic talks. Both sides will try hard to reach an agreement that could benefit one side or the other. However, the Russian-American summit, which starts on November 12, is not so much diplomatic talks as an historic event.

Of course, it is very important whether the ABM Treaty is preserved or not and how big the changes are to be made in it in order to squeeze it into the framework of the U.S. NMD system tests. To judge the outcome of the summit based on these factors would mean to live in the by-gone world of confrontation between the superpowers.

Putin has an historic chance to lead Russia into a community of civilized states. Although the window to Europe cut by Peter the Great has developed into Putin's door leading to the U.S. president's Texan ranch, the success of the summit is to be judged not by changes in the ABM Treaty and not by nuclear arms limits, but by the extent to which the Russian president will be able to use this historic chance.

Strange as it may seem at first, the tragedy that occurred in New York and Washington on September 11 provoked a breakthrough in U.S.-Russia relations. Not only people, but also myths and prejudices, mainly the myth about the proud solitude of America and the prejudices about the "incorrigibility" of "barbaric Russia," were buried under the debris of the World Trade Center and a part of the Pentagon building. When Putin called Bush on September 11 to express his condolences, he also told the U.S. president that he had cancelled the military exercises of the Russian Armed Forces scheduled for that day to prevent a further escalation of tensions. Bush responded by saying that it marked the end of the Cold War. A bit later in Shanghai, Secretary of State Colin Powell, continuing his superior's thought, said that not only the Cold War, but also the post-Cold-War period had ended.

It is safe to say that Putin is going to Bush's ranch with many trump cards in hand.

When during its eastward expansion NATO comes right up to the Russian border, the only possibility will be Russia's unification with this military and political alliance. Russia will not have to humbly knock on NATO's door the way it the Baltic states have to. NATO will open the door wide to Russia. China's emergence in the world arena as a new 21st-century superpower and the establishment of a new bipolar world will dictate such a decision. In that situation, Russia will again become the U.S.'s partner in its struggle against international terrorism.

Moreover, Russia will become not only Washington's main partner, but also a key member of the international community. On the one hand, its long border with China will be securely protected by the NATO nuclear-missile umbrella, and on the other hand, Russia's constantly open lines with China will enable it to play the role of a private stockbroker in the world arena. As a result, Russia will again become a world power, not for its missiles, but because of its political and diplomatic weight.

Taking all these considerations into account, it is safe to say that Putin is going to Bush's ranch with many trump cards in hand. At this point in history, from September 11 to the day when bin Laden and the Taliban are be done away with, the U.S. will need Russia more than Russia will need America. In any case, most U.S. observers admit that the ball is now in the U.S.'s court; Bush, being an enthusiastic ballplayer, knows this pretty well.

Finally a bit about what was essential at the start: the personality factor, the compatibility of the two presidents, their "chemistry." This factor worked long before the September 11 tragedy. After the first meeting with Putin in Ljubljana, Bush understood the soul of the Russian president and said he was a man to be trusted. At that time, this conclusion evoked derision in the U.S. and in Russia. Further developments made skeptics in both countries hold their tongues. Genoa gave new proof of their compatibility; Shanghai emphasized their mutual admiration and Bush began to call Putin by his first name. The U.S. president's press secretary, Ari Fleischer, says Bush and Putin have really come to terms.

What is the reason for such compatibility? Ideological barriers no longer divide Putin and Bush, but they are united by a sense of a historic mission. For the first time in many decades, they are to use the opportunity at hand and make Russia a component of the Western world.

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