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Analysis: The True Russian Nature
By NICHOLAS M. HORROCK, Chief White House Correspondent

CRAWFORD, Texas, Nov. 17 (UPI) Vladimir Putin is the new Russian man -- wearing a well tailored gray jacket here Thursday, black sports shirt, perfectly groomed. When he appeared at Crawford High School you would have thought he was a successful dot-com executive or maybe the president of a Swedish conglomerate.

He has learned all the moves: one-liners, sports metaphors, body language and the American idiom. At the three-day summit just concluded, his most extended of four meetings with President George Bush, there was an anticipation that this most "with-it" Russian leader would see George Bush's vision of quick, easy, 21st Century arms control.

Since Bush took office, his administration has disparaged the old Cold War diplomacy, the endless arms control meetings, the intricate treaties. The president claims they are vestiges of a time when the U.S. and Russia were mortal enemies and that he and Putin, young leaders of a new era, could come to a relationship of trust and sweep aside their enormous arsenals of war by executive order.

As the eight months of their relationship developed, Bush became convinced that Putin would swing his way, make large cuts in nuclear strategic weapons and work out a way for the U.S. to continue testing a missile shield. He had good reason to do so. Putin began to soften his view of the U.S. missile shield testing and said only two weeks ago that he was "flexible" on the ABM.

Bush pledged Tuesday to destroy two thirds of the U.S. strategic arsenal over 10 years and expected quid pro quo, and actually he a got a little quid. Putin said he would follow suit, but would like to have the move codified in the very kind of agreement that Bush has been disparaging and he wanted a clear verification program.

When the two left for Texas, there was still a glimmer of hope that Putin would give a wink and a nod to the U.S. missile testing by perhaps finding a "new" interpretation of the ABM treaty. (The two countries "interpreted" several times since 1972.) But after the mesquite beef and the Bluebell ice cream, that did not come pass either.

In the past two days, every sort of television pundit has mouthed a theory why the Crawford summit reached no deals. Some of the ideas may be correct. One theory holds that the U.S. technology advantage scares the Russians and they want an assurance that we will we tell them what we're doing so that we can't get so far ahead we could blackmail future Russian governments.

Another holds that Putin wants stronger economic incentives from the U.S. so he can show the doubters in the Kremlim he brought home the bacon for junking ABM.

But to anybody who ever passed through a Russian checkpoint, whether the uniform was Soviet or FDR, knows what Bush may have finally recognized: the Russian nature.

The Russian nature was formed by men who conquered some of the most forbidding landscape in the world. They ended up with an empire so vast that it dwarfs the U.S. and a bureaucracy to match.

Both the old Russian Empire and the Soviet Union created massive bureaucracies of men and women who checked each section and dotted every eye. No matter how he dresses or jokes, Vladimir Putin, was born and bred to be an apparatchnik. He never syndicated a baseball team or bought a likely oil well on a handshake.

It is not likely Bush was hoodwinked. In the end, most foreign policy analysts agree, Bush will get a deal to continue to testing and a matched reduction of arms. But he's going to get it at the pace that the Russian soul wants.

This does not mean this summit was a waste. As National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said Thursday, arms control has become only part of the relationship between the two countries, another part is the war on terrorism. Bush calls the Russian's allies in this effort and said Tuesday that Putin was involved in the planning.

Certainly Putin is an invaluable ally for several reasons. Like the British, the Russians have fought before in Afghanistan as late as 1989. It borders two former Soviet Republics and Russian secret services have never lost interest in the region. The two governments are sharing intelligence, Bush said, and that would imply its agents on the ground. It is supplying the Northern Alliance with equipment and knows best who is who in that group.

Putin on several occasions this week talked about oil. Russia has plenty to sell, and providing a pipeline to the Adriatic could be completed, it could help the West free itself from the greatest power of the Islamic nations — oil.

"I would like to say that, unlike other economic negotiations and negotiators," Putin said Thursday, "Russia is not seeking and is not expecting any preferences or any free-buys. We even pay the debts of Russia to the international financial institutions ahead of schedule.

"Russia needs only one thing to develop normally. We need normal standards, conditions and relations with all the leading economies of the world, and primarily with the United States."

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