Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Russia Sees New Ally against Terrorists

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Russia Sees New Ally against Terrorists

Article excerpt

As Russian citizens tearfully leave flowers and condolence notes in front of the American Embassy in Moscow, their acts of solidarity are underlining how a new US-Russian relationship may be forged in the aftermath of Tuesday's terrorist attacks.

Urban terrorism is now a common bond between the two former cold warriors. A string of 1999 apartment block bombings in Russia, which the Kremlin blamed on Chechen separatists, without producing evidence, killed over 300.

Moscow now feels that its repeated warnings of a growing Islamic threat emerging from Central Asia and the Caucasus - and pleas for Western support - are finally being heard in Washington. Some here are suggesting that joint action in crafting a military response may follow.

But a changed dynamic could go either way, analysts warn. The tragedy may help forge a new working relationship, that focuses on sharing intelligence and maybe other assets to fight terrorism. Or President Bush may deepen unilateralist thinking on key strategic issues, shutting Russia and others out of US plans.

The world "must unite in the struggle with terrorism," Russian President Vladimir Putin said during a brief televised address here after the attacks,

"This is the beginning of a new era, in which states are not initiators of war, but targets," says Dmitri Trenin of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace Moscow center. Now "objectively, the US, Israel, and Russia are on the same side." Still, he says, "Many [contentious US-Russia] issues remain on the table."

Defense chief SergeI Ivanov has offered to share any intelligence gathered by Russia that may surface about the culprit. One top suspect, US officials say, is Osama bin Laden, who runs a global network of militant cells from hideouts in Afghanistan.

Any American military strike against targets in the 90 percent of that country controlled by the Islamic Taliban militia, analysts say, must take into account that Russia already has 10,000 troops facing Afghanistan's northern border, in the ex-Soviet republic of Tajikistan.

In August last year, a bin Laden aide seemed to confirm Russian fears, saying that 400 Arab and Afghan fighters had been sent by bin Laden to join separatist guerrillas in Chechnya, a largely Muslim Russian republic.

One card played by Russia - that could be played by the US also, analysts speculate, is providing weapons and adviser support for the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, led by Ahmed Shah Masood. This option is now complicated by conflicting reports that Mr. Masood may have been killed Sunday.

But issues that have strained recent US-Russia ties, analysts say - from US missile defense proposals, to arms-control treaties and NATO enlargement, to Russian atrocities in Chechnya - still remain. …

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