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Monday, 5 June, 2000, 12:53 GMT 13:53 UK
Analysis: Doing business with Putin
Clinton and Putin
Clinton and Putin: Amicable, but not close
By BBC News Online's Stephen Mulvey

There was none of the bonhomie of the old summit meetings between Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin, but the new Russian president, Vladimir Putin, lived up to Mr Clinton's description of him as a man Washington "can do business with".

The relationship between Russia and the United States has undergone more than one major shift since the fall of the Soviet Union, and the latest meeting between heads of state appears to indicate that another is under way.

I know you disagreed with what I did in Kosovo, and you know that I disagreed with what you did in Chechnya

Bill Clinton
A recurring theme during this summit was that Russia and the US would agree to disagree on a range of issues - reflecting Russia's increasing self assurance under the leadership of Mr Putin, and Washington's respect for Moscow's right to defend its interests.

It seems that Russia, in particular, has arrived at a balanced position in which cool pragmatism is replacing both the unrealistic hopes which the country initially pinned on its relationship with the US, eight years ago, and the subsequent onset of widespread resentment at US dominance in world affairs.

Looming dispute

Another hopeful sign is that the new political climate in Russia, after the recent parliamentary and presidential elections, means that foreign policy decisions taken in the Kremlin are more likely to be supported by the Duma, and by the public.

This is not fundamentally about relationships, it's about interests

US National Security Adviser, Sandy Berger
The strongest evidence for both trends is Russia's approach to arms control, in the face of the looming dispute over US plans for the National Missile Defence (NMD) system, dubbed "son of Star Wars".

Mr Putin first ensured that the newly compliant parliament ratified both the Start 2 disarmament treaty, and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, after years of delay.

And instead of rejecting outright America's plans for NMD, he has accepted that a problem exists in connection with "rogue" nuclear states, and - in addition - proposed ways of tackling it jointly, without abandoning the 1972 ABM treaty.

Cool and articulate

Mr Putin has won popular support in Russia as a strong man, capable of mounting a firm defence of Russia's interests.

Clinton was heckled by ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky
At the same time, he has made clear that he wants good relations with the West.

His cool and articulate performance at this summit, combined with the milestone agreement on sharing early-warning data about missile launches, is likely to have satisfied both domestic and foreign audiences.

One Russian analyst recently described Mr Putin's foreign policy style as: "If the West doesn't like something, it will have to live with it."

Mr Clinton tacitly accepted this position, by refraining from harsh critisicm of Russia's military operation in Chechnya.

"I know you disagreed with what I did in Kosovo, and you know that I disagreed with what you did in Chechnya," he said in his speech to the Duma.


The implication is that the White House thinks attempts to use persuasion or pressure against Mr Putin's administration, on issues where they disagree, would be counterproductive.

The emphasis is now on realpolitik.

As US National Security Adviser, Sandy Berger, put it last week: "This is not fundamentally about relationships, it's about interests ... The interests of Russia, the interests of the United States."

Uninentionally however, Mr Clinton may still have alienated Russians with too much good advice.

Some members of parliament said his address to parliament was patronising.

Observers also guessed that Mr Putin was inwardly seething at a joint press conference, when Mr Clinton said bluntly what he thought his counterpart should do to continue improvements in the Russian economy.

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14 Apr 00 | Europe
Treaty debate boost for Putin
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