NYTimes - Time for US to wise up about true nature of Russian beast
- Time for US to wise up about true nature of Russian beast.
Russia's Overtures to 'Axis of Evil' Nations Strain Its Ties With U.S.
September 1, 2002
By STEVEN LEE MYERS with MICHAEL WINES
MOSCOW, Aug. 31 - A flurry of Russian overtures to Iraq,
Iran and North Korea - nations the United States calls an
"axis of evil" - is exposing strains in the newly forged
relationship between Presidents Bush and Vladimir V. Putin,
American and Russian officials say.
In recent weeks, Mr. Putin's government has conspicuously
pursued a range of economic and diplomatic accords with all
three countries - from proposals to drill for oil in Iraq
and build nuclear reactors in Iran to a warm meeting
between Mr. Putin and North Korea's reclusive leader, Kim
Jong Il, in Vladivostok on Aug. 23.
On Monday, the Iraqi foreign minister, Naji Sabri Ahmad
al-Hadithi, is scheduled to arrive in Moscow for two days
of meetings with his Russian counterpart, Igor S. Ivanov,
and other senior officials. Russian officials said the
visit could end with the signing of a 10-year, $40 billion
plan to expand economic investment between the two
Although the plan has been in the works for two years,
Iraqi officials seem eager to close the deal - if only to
bolster international opposition to the Bush
administration's efforts to overthrow the Iraqi leader,
The overtures have surprised and angered senior Bush
administration officials, who seem frustrated that warmer
relations with Mr. Putin's Russia have not been translated
into support for the administration's goals, especially
regarding Iraq and Iran.
In a rebuke more reminiscent of the cold war than of the
new partnership Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin have pledged,
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld recently warned
that Russia's relations with nations the United States
considers enemies threatened to erode its diplomatic and
"To the extent that Russia decides that it wants to parade
its relationship with countries like Iraq and Libya and
Syria and Cuba and North Korea, it sends a signal out
across the globe that that is what Russia thinks is a good
thing to do, to deal with the terrorist states," Mr.
Russian officials have defended the overtures, saying that
Mr. Putin's government is simply pursuing its own
diplomatic and economic interests. Russia shares a border
with North Korea and has longstanding trade ties with it,
as well as with Iraq and Iran.
For now, officials from both countries play down the
possibility of a breach in the new partnership. Despite
criticisms like Mr. Rumsfeld's, American officials said
that Mr. Putin remained a staunch ally in the campaign
against international terrorism. The administration's
looming showdown over Iraq could severely test that.
"What's more important is what the Russians' attitude is
toward regime change and taking military action in Iraq,"
said Robert J. Einhorn, a former Clinton administration
nonproliferation official now at the Center for Strategic
and International Studies in Washington. "Is it going to be
a problem, or will they stand on the sidelines?"
Senior politicians and diplomats said in interviews this
week that Russian objectives in Iraq, Iran and North Korea
did not necessarily contradict American ones, even though
they acknowledged that sharp differences remained over many
issues and tactics.
In the case of North Korea, for example, Mr. Ivanov helped
broker the unusual meeting in Brunei on July 31 between
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and the North Korean
foreign minister, Paek Nam Sun, according to a senior
Russian aide. That was the highest level American contact
with North Korea since President Bush took office 20 months
After Mr. Putin's meeting with Mr. Kim, the two Koreas also
resumed negotiations on a rail link that would connect the
peninsula with Russia's Trans-Siberian Railroad, opening a
trade route across the continent to European markets that
could bring millions of dollars in duties and transit fees
for Russia's economy.
Indeed Russia's diplomacy with the North Koreans is far
from unique. As with the Bush administration's policies
toward Iraq and Iran, it is the American policy toward
North Korea that seems isolated.
On Friday, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan
announced that he would travel to North Korea for the first
time, raising the prospect of a thaw in relations, despite
the Bush administration's efforts to isolate North Korea,
along with Iraq and Iran.
"North Korea is not like Iraq and Iran," said Georgi D.
Toloraya, deputy director general of the Russian Foreign
Ministry's Asian department. "First, they want to talk, and
second, they want to change. That's why we shouldn't lose
Mikhail V. Margelov, chairman of the international affairs
committee in Russia's upper house of Parliament, said he
believed that Iran too, like North Korea, could be
"modernized." For that reason, he said, it would be better
to cultivate rather than sever relations.
"If we can do it peacefully," he said, "why not?"
Harsh rebukes like Mr. Rumsfeld's also belie the fact that Mr.
Putin's government appears to have taken into account
American objections to Russia's recent rounds of diplomacy.
In late July, the Russian government disclosed a draft of a
10-year program to expand economic, industrial and
scientific cooperation with Iran. The agreement, still not
approved by either side, included proposals to build as
many as five more nuclear-power reactors like one already
under construction at Bushehr, a city on the Persian Gulf.
Russia's project at Bushehr - worth $800 million -
represents the most serious rift between the United States
and Russia. President Bush and other officials have
repeatedly objected to the project at Bushehr, warning that
the Russian assistance could help Iran develop nuclear
A senior administration official said last month that
Russian scientists and expertise have already been put to
use in a secret weapons program - something Iran denies
A week after the proposals to build more reactors were
disclosed, however, Russia appeared to back away from them.
After pointed discussions here in Moscow with Energy
Secretary Spencer Abraham, the minister of Russia's nuclear
energy agency, Aleksandr Y. Rumyantsev, suggested for the
first time that Russia was prepared to take into account
"political factors" before deepening its assistance to
Likewise, Russian officials have played down the disclosure
of a similar program of economic cooperation with Iraq -
estimated at $40 billion over 10 years - as simply a wish
list for Russian companies that depended on the lifting of
United Nations sanctions imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait
As President Bush's antiterrorism efforts jell into open
threats to overthrow Mr. Hussein, next week's meetings
between the Iraqi and Russian foreign ministers will be a
measure of Russia's desire to distance itself from Mr. Bush
in the weeks leading up to any showdown with Iraq.
Russian officials at the United Nations and elsewhere have
been steadfast in insisting that Mr. Hussein's government
allow international weapons inspectors return to Iraq and
complete their search for nuclear, chemical and biological
weapons before sanctions can be lifted.
Russia's historical, political and economic ties with Iraq
make for a tangled relationship that could pose genuine
problems for any American military campaign against
Baghdad. Iraq's debt to the old Soviet Union totals at
least $8 billion, and Baghdad offered Russian oil companies
billions more in concessions during the 1990's as it sought
to build support in the United Nations.
Russia is also Iraq's largest supplier in the United
Nations' oil-for-food program, sending at least $2.5
billion a year in nonmilitary goods in exchange for cash
raised by oil sales.
Even so, Russia appears to be exploring the possibility of
a post-Hussein Iraq. Last week, a Russian envoy met with
representatives of the Iraqi opposition in Washington, and
while officials here described the meeting as a routine
diplomatic contact that did not signal a change in Russia's
opposition to a war against Iraq, it nonetheless suggested
Russia hoped to keep its options open.
"I see no love by President Putin or Minister Ivanov in
keeping weapons of mass of destruction in Iraq," Senator
Richard G. Lugar, Republican of Indiana, said, referring to
the defense minister, Sergei B. Ivanov. "They have a real
eagerness to get that under control, same as we do."
Russia's diplomatic overtures also appear to reflect a
struggle over the direction the country will take. As Mr.
Putin tries to turn it to the West, he has been buffeted by
nationalistic forces eager to differ with the United
States, industrial leaders eager to find markets and
ministries that sometimes work at odds with one another.
Stephen Sestanovich, a senior fellow at the Council on
Foreign Relations in New York, said the Bush
administration's greatest fear is the possibility that
Russia could use its influence to force Iraq's acquiescence
to a new inspection regime. That could set up a clash with
the United States if the Bush administration decides to
proceed with military operations anyway.
"That," he said, "would be the worst-case scenario."
This is a scenario well worth a Walt Disney Studios attention:
Putin - the Dubaya's bad lap dog Pooty-Poo, trying to reason with his pal - a big mad dog Saddy, to let the inspectors in, to see what? That they are only about to build a couple of perfectly safe nuclear plants, as the mad guy accepted their tender, - the russky are the internationally renown, the best contractors one can find for such project, even he heard abour Chernobyl?
In the background, Poo doggy sends his packs of semi starved sick mongrels to bomb and rob a small country in the mountains. As it happens, the countryfolk there shares the religious beliefs with the Mad Saddy; Allah, - being Great, Patient and Merciful, - is not in a habit of choosing His faithful at will.
Is Saddy at peace with his Creator? If yes, what is his attitude to Poo? Why does Poo prefer to play in the sand with Saddy and kill the moderate, more western orientated folk in his own backyard in the mountains, under Dubaya's long nose? What exactly is it that Poo is trying to achieve here by chasing two hares and a half? And how long will the patiece of a 'patient man', as Dubaya described himself, last?
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