#9 - JRL 7230
Argumenti i Fakty
June 18, 2003
WILL FRIENDSHIP ENDURE?
Bush And Putin stand to gain more from friendship than from hostility
Author: Alexei Pushkov, producer and presenter of the Postscriptum TV program
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]
THOUGH THE UNITED STATES AND RUSSIA SEEMINGLY HAVE QUITE A NUMBER OF POINTS OF DIFFERENCE IN THEIR VIEWS ON INTERNATIONAL ISSUES, BOTH SEEK TO MAINTAIN FRIENDLY RELATIONS. THE TWO POWERS DO HAVE SOME COMMON INTERESTS: AND IT WOULD BE UNWISE FOR RUSSIA TO FALL OUT WITH THE WORLD'S ONLY SUPER-POWER.
Why did George W. Bush take great offence at President Chirac and Chancellor Schroeder in the course of the Iraq conflict, but decide not to spoil his personal friendly relations with Vladimir Putin?
They say in Washington that Bush liked the straightforwardness Putin displayed during the Iraq crisis. Before the Russian president overtly, in front of TV cameras, called the U.S.-led intervention in Iraq a mistake, he warned his American counterpart in a telephone conversation against making a big mistake.
Apart from those personal warm relations between the two presidents, Russia and the United States have few points of common interest. U.S. observers point out that the agenda of the two countries' relations is rather tight. It includes the problem of importing U.S. poultry meat to Russia, repealing the notorious Jackson-Vanik amendment, and cooperation between intelligence agencies on countering terrorism. As for other issues, Moscow and Washington have different rather than similar views.
Moscow would like NATO to play a more important role in Iraq. The United States allows NATO to step in, but will not suffer it to take the lead. Moscow would like to supply uranium for Iran's nuclear program, for the contract is worth $1bn, but Washington claims that this would facilitate creation of a nuclear bomb by Teheran. The United States has deployed electronic surveillance systems in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to keep an eye on Russia and it stands to reason that the Russian military is thinking about some adequate response.
Will the friendship of the two presidents endure under the pressure of quite diverging interests? Strange as it may seem, the answer is most likely to be "yes". The reasons for it are as follows. Putin has a strong desire not to let the relations of the two countries degrade below a certain level. It would be an imprudent and short-sighted step on the part of Russia to fall out with the only existing super-power. Russia hardly needs to be in the van of opposition to America: the United States would surely come to see the impossibility of pursuing the policy of the world hegemony, for the modern world has a very complicated structure and organization. In such circumstances it would be more expedient for Russia to try to exert influence on the U.S. policy "from within", that is within the framework of the G-8 and bilateral summits, rather than "from outside" putting itself in sharp opposition to Washington.
But it is important for Bush to preserve friendly relations with Moscow as much. Firstly, without Russia's support it will be a lot more difficult for him to achieve his aims in Eurasia, it being no matter whether it is Iran or North Korea. Secondly, and which probably is more important, Bush cannot afford to spoil relations with Putin on the threshold of the presidential election that will be held in 2004. The friendship with Putin is a fine answer to democrats who criticize Bush for letting the war in Iraq considerably bring down America in the opinion of all nations.
In short, Bush and Putin stand to gain more from friendship than from hostility or from simply a chilly relationship.
(Translated by Sergei Kolosov)