As a precursor to his meeting with President George W. Bush tomorrow, Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed resolute plans for strengthening ties with communist China and several former Soviet republics.

“Russia and China are planning greater coordination in their efforts to build a democratic, multi-polar world and strengthening global security,” Putin stated prior to leaving for a two-day summit meeting in Shanghai, China, according to official Russian sources.

Bush will meet Putin in Ljubliana, Slovenia, tomorrow as Putin comes to the conference table with strategic accords with China, further progress on a revolutionary transit system across Russia and success in rebuilding the framework of a new Soviet Union.

Putin’s remarks were carried by the Voice of Russia World Service, the official broadcasting service of the Russian government.

Moscow and Beijing, Putin stated, are also looking forward to mutual efforts to “explore outer space,” while expanding “exchanges [in] … energy and technology.” Putin is attending the summit of the “Shanghai Five,” consisting of Russia, China and the Central Asian former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Kirgizia and Tajikistan. Uzbekistan is expected to be admitted as a member to the group. Putin stated that he would welcome the association’s enlargement.

Putin’s call for a “democratic, multi-polar world” comes as his government comes under increasing criticism from intellectuals and human-rights groups for Moscow’s increasingly heavy-handed approach to governmental critics and widening press control.

While Putin’s choice of communist China as a partner for a more “democratic” world appears contradictory – since China is continually condemned for human rights abuses – the move is at least consistent: In 1997, Putin’s predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, also called for Moscow and Beijing to strive for a “multi-polar world” within the framework of a “New World Order.”

The term “multi-polar” is in contrast to “uni-polar,” a designation indicating supposed world domination by the United States.

At the same time, Moscow’s hopes for a revolutionary transportation system running from Asia across Russia and into Europe are receiving further support. A spokesman for the Russian Interior Ministry confirmed that a number of nations – including several Persian Gulf nations – have expressed interest in the project.

What Moscow refers to as the “international transit corridor” would extend from the Indian subcontinent to cities on the Persian Gulf, across Iran, and to Iranian ports on the Caspian Sea. The route would continue to Russian ports, cross the Russian landmass, then reach Europe.

The Interior Ministry claims that experiments indicate the new route would be two to three times faster than the present transportation route from Asia to Europe through the Suez Canal.

Reports refer to the proposed transit route as a new “Silk Road” – the legendary path used from China to Europe for the silk and spice trade. Most trade along the old Silk Road ended when victorious Ottoman Turk armies captured Constantinople in 1453 and cut off Europe from the Far East. The voyages of Christopher Columbus were made in response to the continuing demand for trade with the East.

In Eastern Europe, the western end of the transit route, Moscow’s influence continues to grow. The Union State of Russia and Belarus may admit Ukraine within a relatively short time.

Legislators from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine are seeking “to restore the unity of the three Slavic neighbors” and to “protect common geopolitical interests.”

Observers speculate that the “common geopolitical interests” of the three states excludes NATO expansion, as long as the United States plays a leading role in the organization.

Should Ukraine join the Union, the framework of the old Soviet Union would be re-established. Smaller former Soviet republics have expressed interest in joining the Union, including the Central Asian state of Kirgizia, and the small but strategically important East European nation of Moldova. Moldova recently became the first post-Soviet republic to bring the Communist Party back into power.

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