Dealing with the Russians: Imagine You're Sitting in the Oval Office. What Advice Would You Offer George W. Bush? (A Symposium of Views)
Earlier in his administration, President Bush pronounced that he had looked into the eyes of Russian President Vladimir Putin and taken a measure of his soul. Since then, the international community has assumed that this increasingly intimate "George/Vladimir" relationship would help provide a sense of long-term stability to the global scene. Has the official Russian response to the Iraq War compromised this sense of stability, or was the Russian leader never really much in control of his government--particularly his foreign ministry--to begin with? To what extent will the development of oil resources continue to play a role in the U.S.-Russian relationship? If President Bush asked you for a quick word of advice on how best to deal with the Russians from here on, how would you respond?
Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
For the past four years, Russia has achieved an average annual economic growth of 6 percent, and this expansion continues apace. The growth comes from a broad range of Russian-owned enterprises and it has been driven by radical tax reform and fiscal adjustments, while foreign investment or aid have been inconsequential. Since 1993 the United States has promised to abolish the discriminatory Jackson-Vanik Amendment of 1974, but it has still not managed to do so.
On September 11, 2001, President Putin immediately supported President Bush in his war against terrorism, but the United States gave Russia nothing in return, while withdrawing from the bilateral Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and enlarging NATO. By being so friendly to the United States, President Putin started looking weak and foolish. The Russian mood turned anti-American before the war in Iraq, which benefited the communists, and this is an election year in Russia. Mr. Putin had to go along with the public mood, which has strengthened the old anti-American Soviet security establishment, and WTO accession has been delayed. Today, Russia does not ask for anything from the United States, and the United States has nothing to often
Ironically, the United States has become dependent on Russia in three important regards. First, the embargo against Iraq could not be lifted without Russia's consent in the UN Security Council. Otherwise, ships trading with Iraq could be legally seized on the high sea. Second, Russia's assent is also needed for any debt relief for Iraq in the Paris Club. If not, international financing to Iraq would be encumbered. Third, Russia has a strong interest in selling peaceful nuclear technology to Iran, which the United States firmly opposes because of Iran's endeavors to develop nuclear arms. President Bush needs to make a credible commitment that the United States can deliver something that is worthwhile for Russia, but what could that be and how can he establish any credibility?
President, Alfa Bank, Russia
First and foremost, President Bush needs to take steps to add depth to U.S.-Russian relations. Over the past two years President Bush has built a very solid relationship with President Putin, but it is not clear that this warmth and trust extend much beyond this personal relationship. The farther one gets from the Bush-Putin relationship, the more ties tend to be conducted on the basis of old, dated models of U.S.-Russian relations. President Bush needs to insist that his Cabinet and sub-Cabinet officials take a more active interest in Russia, arranging regular visits and developing agendas for cooperation which can build a more comprehensive basis for future ties. We Russians firmly believe that we understand the United States better than the Americans understand us, and it would serve the relationship well if more senior-level U.S. figures--both government and private-sector--spent more time in Russia meeting with our experts and learning that old models no longer fit the "new Russia. …