Magazine article Insight on the News

Putin Appears Ready to Deal with Bush on Missile-Defense Issues

Magazine article Insight on the News

Putin Appears Ready to Deal with Bush on Missile-Defense Issues

Article excerpt

The "new strong-state style of foreign policy," is how the respected Russian commentator Andrei Piontkovsky has termed the tendency of the Kremlin to sulk in the comer and issue blood-curdling threats, only later to back down and become more reasonable as realities sink in dictating a U-turn.

Moscow's more measured responses recently to U.S. plans to develop a nuclear-missile shield are merely the latest examples. For the first 100 days of George W. Bush's presidency the Kremlin fulminated about the U.S. president's proposed nuclear-missile defense, warning that it would trigger a new global arms race.

Russian President Vladimir Putin seemed intent on reliving the 1980s and taking a leaf out of the playbook of the late KGB chief Yuri Andropov. The signs were that the Kremlin was cranking up to launch a major diplomatic offensive aimed at trying to exploit European doubts and to split the Western allies, in much the same way that the Soviets attempted when Ronald Reagan started deploying intermediate nuclear missiles in NATO countries.

But the heady days of peaceniks are long past, and Putin got short shrift from German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder when the two met recently in St. Petersburg. The German didn't take up the Russian's encouragement to denounce the missile-shield proposal.

Belatedly, Putin has changed tack, although there are some in the Kremlin and among Russian defense chiefs who are critical of the shift. Since Bush's major policy address on May 1, the threats have subsided. …

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