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Moscow Times
November 13, 2001
Summit Is Not About Concessions

In the days and weeks leading up to President Vladimir Putin's summit with President George W. Bush, the focus was on the future of the ABM Treaty and on what essentially would be a START III, an agreement to cut strategic nuclear arsenals. Officials shuttled back and forth between Washington and Moscow, hinting after each meeting that the two sides were getting closer.

Putin came out over the weekend and told American journalists that he was "very optimistic" a compromise could be found on the ABM Treaty, which forbids the U.S. to develop a national missile defense shield.

And U.S. officials indicated that Bush was prepared to agree to a Russian proposal to slash the number of warheads held by both countries by as much as two-thirds.

At the same time, Bush's national security advisor, Condoleeza Rice, cautioned that no specific deal could be expected from the three-day visit: "Not every meeting has to be accompanied like the old summits were with the Soviet Union by arms control agreements." Rice went on to say that the Russian-U.S. relationship "is larger than the security relationship. And so economic relations are important, political relations are important. This is a very different relationship now."

Rice is right. The relationship is larger than the security relationship. And while Russia has long pushed Washington for a drastic reduction in strategic arms, Putin now wants more.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, Putin made a series of gestures to the United States. In standing firmly behind the U.S. anti-terrorism campaign, he opened the way for the deployment of U.S. troops in Central Asia. He promised to close Russia's listening post in Cuba and naval base in Vietnam, two symbols of its past influence in the world.

We could argue that none of these steps was a concession to the United States, but a pragmatic move that furthered Russia's own interests. (Notice that Putin did not bow to the West at all over Iraq or Iran.)

But that is not how Putin's actions have been seen by Russia's military and political elite, who fear that once again Russia is giving without getting anything in return. In order to overcome the discontent, Putin needs to come back from the United States with some tangible results.

What Putin wants is U.S. support for redefining Russia's relationship with NATO and for putting Russia on track to join the World Trade Organization.

Both are well within Washington's power, and here, too, we could argue that we're not talking about concessions to a former foe. Integrating Russia into the West economically and politically would do more for U.S. security than any deal on NMD.

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