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Monday, May 02, 2005


What Bush wants from Putin

From Newsweek:

As he tries to build a legacy of promoting democracy around the globe, Bush has run headlong into Fortress Russia. Increasingly, he's fending off the kind of Russian accusations that once dominated the Soviet era of geopolitics: of covert action on Russia's borders, competing spheres of influence and zero-sum games. Bush wants to visit Latvia and Georgia to show the world what young democracies look like. Instead the Russians see his tour as yet more American interference in their backyard. Putin refuses to move his troops out of Georgia and opposes Bush's support for a new democratic government in repressive Belarus. The Russian president also is flexing his muscle in the Middle East, confirming last week that he would sell antiaircraft missiles to Syria. "We didn't appreciate that," Bush explained to reporters at his Thursday-night White House press conference, "but we made ourselves clear."

Inside the Bush administration, though, democracy is just one item on the agenda with Moscow. U.S. officials tell NEWSWEEK that pushing democracy onto Putin is a lower priority than winning his help to halt the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea. They are taking a relaxed approach to Russian troops in Georgia, and suggest that Putin's backsliding on democracy is less dramatic than it seems. Overall, Bush's strategy is to keep open his channel of communication with Putin, which means stopping short of a confrontation.

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