Home / International / International -- Opinion Tools: Save | Print | E-mail | Most Read
Cold War Cloud over G8 Summit
Adjust font size:

US President George W. Bush is threading the diplomatic needle on a foreign trip - again.

He meets at the G8 summit in Germany with Russian President Vladimir Putin, with whom relations are already strained.

In fact, US-Russian relations are veering toward breaking point because of Bush's ambition to erect a missile defense system on Moscow's doorstep.

But Bush is also bookending his summit stay with Putin and the leaders of six other industrialized nations with calls on the Czech Republic and Poland, former Soviet allies where Bush wants to base major parts of the new shield. And that could hardly be seen as anything less than a poke in the eye to Putin.

"This is a distinctive message that is as easily understandable in Russian as it is in English," said Simon Serfaty, senior advisor to the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"The message is we're going to do what we're going to do, and your concerns about the deployment of some marginal capabilities designed for defense purposes in Central Europe are not going to impress me."

Bush left on an eight-day, six-country European tour Monday. Besides the Czech Republic, Germany and Poland, he also has Italy, Albania and Bulgaria on his itinerary. He has meetings planned with at least 15 foreign leaders, plus the Pope, and his schedule isn't final yet. But his spat with Putin is still likely to dominate.

US officials have insisted - publicly and to Putin personally - that the system planned for Eastern Europe is meant to protect NATO allies against a possible missile launch from Iran, which the West suspects of trying to develop nuclear weapons. Moscow isn't buying it, insisting the system must be aimed at Russia and accusing Washington of touching off a new arms race.

Saying it is now forced to strengthen its military potential, Russia test-fired new missiles, and declared a moratorium on observing its obligations under a key Soviet-era arms control treaty.

Putin has unleashed a volley of remarks against Washington. He has criticized "imperialism" in global affairs, saying the shield would turn Europe into a "powder keg", and accused the US of "an almost uncontained hyper use of force".

The missile defense flare-up came on top of Washington's worries about backsliding on democracy under Putin's leadership - even as the US courts Russia's assistance in curtailing Iran's and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's nuclear programs. Putin is increasingly riled over what he views as US meddling in his backyard.

To settle things down, Bush has invited the Russian president for an unprecedented stay at his family's summer compound on the Maine coast in July.

But he is also hosting Estonia's president at the White House the week before.

Like the Czech and Polish stops, this meeting will not please the Russians, angry as they are with Estonia for moving a memorial to Soviet soldiers killed during World War II.

The overarching message from the Bush administration has been: calm down. "The Cold War is over," Bush told foreign reporters before the trip. "We're now into the 21st century." He called the Washington-Moscow relationship "complex" - a term earlier used mostly to describe the US' ties with China.

This sort of strategic travel planning isn't new for Bush. In May 2005, he agreed to be with Putin at Red Square to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.

But he started that trip in Latvia and ended it in Georgia, former Soviet republics both, which he used as backdrops for rhetoric on the power of democracy.

When President Nixon traveled to Moscow in 1972, for instance, he made counterweight stops in Poland and Iran. "It has some benefit in trying to demonstrate to people who might be critical of policies that there's a broader set of initiatives being pursued, often to critics back home," said Stephen Sestanovich, senior fellow for Russian studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

"When he goes to NATO or visits a major industrialized country, he goes out of his way to go to the Baltics or to some part of the former Soviet Union to sort of send a message that we're behind this agenda," said Charles Kupchan, director of Europe Studies for the Council on Foreign Relations.

"I think it really does make a difference." For Bush, unpopular at home and in much of the world, it also offers photographic proof that he still is revered in some places.

In the impoverished, struggling young democracy of Georgia, for instance, the main road from Tblisi's downtown to the airport has been called George W. Bush Avenue since his visit.

"There are countries that tire of having Air Force One touch down," Sestanovich said.

"But very small countries that rarely get the treatment can respond in very positive ways. And presidents who aren't used to that kind of adulation at home anymore sometimes find it invigorating."

(China Daily via agencies June 5, 2007)

Tools: Save | Print | E-mail | Most Read

Related Stories
Bush Arrives in Prague for Working Visit
Hundreds Injured in Riots Before G8 Summit
US Unveils Emission Cuts Strategy
Bush, Putin to Meet in Early July
G8 Calls for More Monitoring of Internet over Terrorists
> Korean Nuclear Talks
> Middle East Peace Process
> Iran Nuclear Issue
> Reconstruction of Iraq
> 6th SCO Summit Meeting
- China Development Gateway
- Foreign Ministry
- Network of East Asian Think-Tanks
- China-EU Association
- China-Africa Business Council
- China Foreign Affairs University
- University of International Relations
- Institute of World Economics & Politics
- Institute of Russian, East European & Central Asian Studies
- Institute of West Asian & African Studies
- Institute of Latin American Studies
- Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies
- Institute of Japanese Studies
SiteMap | About Us | RSS | Newsletter | Feedback
Copyright © China.org.cn. All Rights Reserved     E-mail: webmaster@china.org.cn Tel: 86-10-88828000 京ICP证 040089号