Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson

Wall Street Journal
November 19, 2001
Putin's Diplomacy Causes Fear in Russia Of Making Too Many Concessions to U.S.

MOSCOW -- Russian President Vladimir Putin is facing rumblings of discontent from senior military and political figures who fear he is making too many concessions to the U.S. and getting next to nothing in return.

Despite high expectations, last week's Russia-U.S. summit in Texas failed to deliver a new arms-control treaty or a breakthrough on missile defense, prompting Mr. Putin's critics to charge that he has little to show for his pro-Western policies.

On Friday, the head of parliament's defense committee, Andrei Nikolayev, voiced strong criticism of Mr. Putin's decision to close an electronic spying center in Cuba and a naval base in Vietnam -- moves largely seen as gestures of goodwill toward Washington -- and for acquiescing to the stationing of U.S. troops in Central Asia, long considered Russia's backyard.

"If they're there for the short term ... then we can accept that," said Mr. Nikolayev, a former deputy chief of general staff and head of Russia's border guards. "But if they've gone there for good, then that's bad. What would the U.S. think if we moved into Mexico?"

U.S.-Russian relations entered a new era when Mr. Putin signed on to the international antiterror coalition now waging war in Afghanistan. While Mr. Putin enjoys 70% public-approval ratings, commentators say there are signs of a growing rift between him and some of his erstwhile supporters in the military.

"Putin's support base is the bureaucracy, especially the intelligence services and the army, and they are essentially conservative," says Viktor Kremenyuk, deputy director of Moscow's U.S.A.-Canada Institute. "They think Putin is sacrificing national interests."

Messrs. Bush and Putin have established a warm personal rapport since their first meeting in Slovenia in June, but sticking points remain. Russia is still resisting the North Atlantic Treaty Organization expansion into Eastern Europe, while the U.S. is critical of Russian sales of nuclear technology to Iran. Little progress on these issues was reported at the summit.

Mr. Bush has said he will ask Congress to scrap the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, a Cold War trade restriction imposed in 1974 to punish the Soviet Union for curbing Jewish emigration. The U.S. has also said it will help Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organization. But there are few signs so far that Russia's newly cooperative stance will translate into immediate economic benefits.

The summit did yield moves on arms control. Mr. Bush announced that the U.S. would cut the number of its operationally deployed nuclear weapons over the next 10 years by two-thirds, to between 1,700 and 2,200. Mr. Putin said Russia would respond in kind.

But Mr. Bush's reluctance to codify the cuts in a traditional arms-control treaty angers Russia's generals. "This is just a political statement with no basis in international law," said Mr. Nikolayev, who is thought to have close links to Russia's top brass. "We need a treaty that is strictly implemented and closely monitored."

He also reiterated the strong opposition of the Russian military to any attempt to amend or scrap the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which Russia sees is a cornerstone of global security but Washington sees as a constraint on its plans for a missile-defense system.

Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov said Mr. Putin is following the path taken by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Russian ex-President Boris Yeltsin, by making concessions to the West without consulting parliament or public opinion.

"If it emerges that during secret talks with the American leadership, Mr. Putin agreed to the expansion of NATO ... and to a U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty," he said, "then such actions will have disastrous consequences for Russia's national security for at least the next 20 years."

Back to the Top    Next Article