Cultural Revolutions

Russian Relations

Russian relations, in mid-November, were potentially on the verge of a sea-change, at the conclusion of two days of smiles, handshakes, bear hugs, and the usual feel-goodisms we have come to expect of “summit meetings,” especially from American presidents.  (President George W. Bush, for instance, insisted that “the more I get to see” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “heart and soul,” the more “I know we can work together.”)  Still, nothing concrete beyond cooperation in the “war on terror” had yet materialized.

Putin was friendly and warmer than his previous iceman image had indicated.  He graciously went through the motions of fielding schoolchildren’s questions during his visit to President Bush’s home state of Texas and even offered a wisecrack or two.  (When Bush told the former KGB operative that he should come to his ranch in summer to get to know the real Texas, Putin reportedly deadpanned, “So you want to come to Siberia in winter?”

Nevertheless, according to Russian observers, Putin and his entourage felt a bit uneasy at the end of the meetings.  The two sides agreed to continue talks on the related issues of National Missile Defense and nuclear-arms reductions, disappointing the expectations of those who expected Putin’s U.S. trip to yield a compromise allowing testing of certain missile-defense...

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