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On Saturday President George W. Bush will meet President Vladimir
Putin in Slovenia. It will be their first significant encounter. America’s
new leader will “look into the eyes” of the KGB lieutenant colonel who
governs Russia.

What will Bush see?

The U.S. president is eager for friendship. He wants Putin to like
him. After all, the U.S. president seeks Putin’s approval for constructing a
second-rate ABM defense which promises to be ineffective against Russian
missiles. Therefore Bush is the one seeking approval at this meeting, not
Putin.

Consider Bush’s statement on Tuesday, in which he said that “Russia is
not the enemy of the United States.” But this is not for Bush to say. It is
for Putin and the Russians to say. All that Bush can say is that America is
not the enemy of Russia. In fact, Bush intends to prove America’s good
intentions by reducing America’s nuclear arsenal by 50 percent. This will
supposedly tempt Putin into abandoning his opposition to American ballistic
missile defense.

To be sure, Putin is tempted by Bush’s offer because the destruction
of American weapons could give nuclear superiority to Russia. Putin
therefore wants America to destroy its missiles knowing full well that
effective U.S. missile defenses will never be built. Here we can see that
Putin is working against the U.S. We can see that hostility to America was
never really dropped.

Consider what former Russian President Boris Yeltsin said in a Tuesday
television interview. Yeltsin predicted that Bush would try and bully Putin
at Saturday’s summit. The Americans, he said, “will use a position of
strength to press down on Russia. In short, it will be an assault.”
Referring to the typical “coarseness” of America’s leadership style, Yeltsin
noted that under Putin, Russia’s authority “in the whole world” was growing.

Indeed, Russia’s influence is growing. A recent report, issued by the
Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, says that Russia is
making moves to influence the world price of oil and natural gas. The report
also says that American policymakers have failed to counter these moves.

America’s global position appears shaky. America’s allies are
becoming ever more critical and unreliable. Japan, which cannot defend itself
from Russia or China, is not supportive of American missile defense.
Europe’s leaders have treated Bush to a host of snide comments which barely
disguise their contempt. Man is a political animal and animals can often
sense weakness. As a great world-organizing power, the United States appears
moribund, unable to tame the passionate economic forces of global capitalism,
unable to prevent a powerful combination from emerging against it.

American policy-makers are frightened by the prospect of a renewed
Cold War. The Russian-Chinese alliance, and the pulling together of the old
communist bloc, have left the liberal-dominated U.S. establishment confused
and bewildered — their preconceptions in shambles.

As Bush goes forth to meet Putin in Slovenia, America suffers from
political correctness in its universities and corporations, softness in its
suburbs, angry minorities in its cities, a presidency that is hypersensitive
to economic interests instead of strategic interests, and an economy on the
brink of recession.

What might deepen that recession into a prolonged crisis?

America’s dependence on foreign energy supplies and Russia’s attempt
to dominate those supplies should be uppermost in Bush’s mind when he shakes
Putin’s hand on Saturday. Oil is America’s vulnerable point, and oil is at
the heart of Putin’s strategy. By consolidating Russia’s strategic
partnership with Iran, by allying with Venezuela, by reviving its relations
with Iraq, Libya and Syria, Moscow is preparing for the day when oil may be
used to either dictate policy or deliver crushing economic blows.

According to the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political
Studies, “Russia could succeed in creating an anti-American, anti-NATO
regional grouping that would dramatically upset the regional balance of power
and place Western interests and regional Western allies ? like Turkey and
Israel ? in jeopardy.”

We are losing our grip on the Middle East. We are also losing our
grip on the Far East. The implications are stunning. Yet George Bush is
heading for his Saturday meeting with Vladimir Putin with the slogan, “Russia
is not the enemy of the United States.”

If Russia is not our enemy then why has Russia — supposedly broke and
economically helpless — developed the world’s quietest submarine? Yes,
that’s right, the Russians have launched a new undersea boat called the
“Gepard,” which has joined Russia’s Northern Fleet. More stealthy than
America’s Los Angeles class attack submarines, the Gepard can avoid
detection by advanced U.S. sonar. This submarine is said to move faster,
dive deeper and hit harder than U.S. or NATO submarines.

Russia, a country that lacks the resources to fund its civilian and
consumer sectors, yet remains willing to fund its military sector to the
hilt. When President Bush meets President Putin he should ask why this is
happening. Why have they built the world’s best submarine? Why have they
build the world’s most advanced nuclear missile? Why are they building deep
nuclear-proof cities under the Ural Mountains? Why have they formed an
alliance with China, Iran, Venezuela while renewing alliances with Iraq,
Syria, Libya, North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba?

President Bush expects that when he looks into Putin’s eyes he will
see something. But KGB officers like Putin are trained to look steadily
back, without revealing their real thoughts. A Russian friend will wink, he
will drop subtle hints, he will tell you the truth by joking. But a Russian
who is against you will lie with a straight face, misdirect you with subtle
hints, and leave you heading in the wrong direction.

Perhaps George W. Bush is a man of instinct and subtlety who will
shake Putin’s hand and feel the chill of the KGB veteran’s hostile
intentions. But surrounded by advisers who think in economic rather than
strategic terms, Bush’s instincts will find themselves without support. It
is easy to predict that Russia’s deception will continue and the U.S.
president will be deceived.

Sadly, this is what we can expect.

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