War on Terrorism: Russia - Cold War Is over, Blair Tells Putin after Talks
Waugh, Paul, The Independent (London, England)
TONY BLAIR declared last night that "the Cold War is over" after he met Russian President Vladimir Putin on his latest diplomatic effort to prepare the international coalition for action against terrorism.
Amid even tighter security following the Siberian aircraft crash, the Prime Minister held talks with Mr Putin in Moscow in a bid to strengthen the practical co-operation between Russia and the West ahead of any strike on Afghanistan.
The two leaders held a 90-minute meeting in the Kremlin, focusing on the impending military and humanitarian action, before driving out for dinner at Mr Putin's private dacha on the outskirts of the capital.
Mr Blair, who was informed of the downing of the Siberian jet while he was travelling to Moscow in an RAF VC10, heaped praise on the Russian President for his "strong leadership and vision" and willingness to work actively with the West to ensure global security.
The Prime Minister also used the trip to highlight further his claim in his Labour party conference speech this week that the world was entering a new era of co-operation. At their joint press conference, Mr Putin paid tribute in return to Mr Blair and, amid speculation that Russia was willing to approve a US build up on former Soviet soil, gave his support to any action taken against Osama bin Laden and his network.
In one of his most vociferous shows of support for military action, Mr Putin also warned that any civilian casualties in Afghanistan would be the fault not of the West but of the terrorists who ran the country.
Mr Blair, who was the first Western leader to visit the Russian leader after he won the presidential election last year, pointed out that he had had eight meetings with Mr Putin and many telephone calls.
"I think that is a very good indication of the strengthening relationship, not just between Britain and Russia, but a strong personal relationship which I greatly value," he said.
"I believe something is happening today which is immensely important. The Cold War is over and many of the difficulties of the past can be set aside. We have a real opportunity to forge new relationships ... It is important we do so because we face common interests and common dangers. We need Russia as a partner and friend. …