C.I.A. Confidential

Putin’s Gamble: Playing the Terrorist Card

When Russian President Vladimir Putin called President Bush shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks to express his solidarity, pundits East and West took this as a sign of what one American columnist called the coming “earthquake” in U.S.-Russia relations.  Putin was aiming to shift his policy focus westward, away from his previous “Eurasianist” effort to use Moscow’s relations with Beijing, New Delhi, Tehran, and the Arab world to balance the “unipolar” nature of a U.S.-dominated post-Cold War world order.  This political tectonic shift would potentially make Russia a full-fledged member of the Western world and radically alter the world’s political alignment from East-West to North-South.  Historically Christian/European/Western First World states (plus Japan) would join with the historically Orthodox Second World Russia in an effort to fight off an aggressive Third World movement: “international terrorism,” the chosen weapon of resurgent Islam.

Such a realignment is unlikely.  Last fall, however, it did seem possible that Russia could move closer to the West in cooperative efforts, making Moscow a “partner” if not a “friend,” and damping mutual hostility.  Even though Washington has done little so far to satisfy the Kremlin’s hopes for a partnership—and has even taken a number of steps that have antagonized...

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