Putin Finds Limited Common Ground at Bush Family Home

July 02, 2007 09:40 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Results were mixed when presidents Putin and Bush met: there was agreement on Iran, but no discernible progress on the more divisive issue of the U.S. missile defense system in Europe.

30 Second Summary

Russian President Putin is the first world leader to be a guest at the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Before the meeting, White House aides declared that President Bush's hope was that a casual atmosphere would help improve Russo–U.S. relations. The rift between the countries  widened dramatically in 2007. Commentators have even talked of a second Cold War.  

After two days of informal talks, the leaders concurred that they must prevent Iran developing a nuclear weapon. However, they were unable to reach an agreement on the U.S. missile defense plans.

The Kremlin has been unhappy about the missile defense system since January, 2007 when the United States declared its intention to build Eastern European bases.

It is not known what other issues were discussed. Certainly, there was much to talk about. The United States has become concerned about Russia’s human rights record. Press freedom has become a more prominent issue since the unsolved murders of two of Putin’s most vocal critics in 2006: Anna Politkovskaya and Alexander Litvinenko.

U.S. support for Kosovan independence is another sore point with the Kremlin. So are Western accusations that Russia uses its energy resources to blackmail its neighbors.

President Bush summed up the meeting for the press: “We’re close on recognizing that we got to work together to send a common message.”   



Recent History

The Munich Security Summit

In a speech at a security summit in Munich, Germany, on February 10, 2007 the Russian president compared the American attitude toward international relations to the autocratic rule of a monarch.
Missile Defense

In January 2007, the United States declared that it was considering a missile base in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic as part of a new missile defense network. Ostensibly, the purely defensive missile program is intended to protect the West from the Middle East; Russia, however, is not convinced and has accused America of starting a new arms race.
U.S. Human Rights Report

In March 2007, the U.S. Department of State published a highly critical report on human rights practices in Russia for the year 2006. Among many points made therein, the document criticized the inadequately democratic process of the 2004 election in which Putin won his second term.
Victory Day Parade

At a Moscow parade commemorating the Russian soldiers who died in World War II, on May 9, 2007, Putin gave a speech making a thinly veiled comparison between U.S. foreign policy and Nazi Germany. Though he didn’t actually name America, few commentators doubted which country was addressed when Putin protested against “disrespect for human life, claims to global exclusiveness and dictate, just as it was in the time of the Third Reich.”
Condoleeza Rice Meets with Putin

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice met with President Putin in May to smooth over relations between their countries in preparation for the Russian president's trip to America. Both parties agreed to “tone down the rhetoric,” which became especially heated in Putin’s Victory Day speech and at the Munich summit. However, Rice was firm that Russia would not be able to veto the U.S. missile defense plans for eastern Europe and that America would continue to press for Kosovan independence.
G8 Summit

Bush and Putin met briefly at the G8 summit in Germany on June 7, shortly after the Russian premier had stated that he might redirect Russian missiles at European targets if America goes ahead with its missile defense plans. After that meeting, Bush reassured reporters that “Russia is not going to attack Europe.”

Russia’s representatives clashed with ministers from the other G8 countries at the May summit over United Nations plans for Kosovan independence. America supports the UN initiative. However, the Kremlin argues that if Kosovo splits from Serbia, it will encourage separatist movements in Russian-backed Georgia.

Russian arms sales to Iran are another source of friction between the former Soviet nation and the United States, respectively the second and first largest producers of armaments in the world.

Summit History

The Yalta Conference: The Cold War Conceived

The Yalta Conference was a meeting between World War II leaders Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin, also known as "The Big Three." Held from February 4 to February 11, 1945 at a resort on the Crimean Peninsula, the conference marked a shift from war-forged alliance to ideological rivalry between the democratic West and the communist East.

The European conflict was coming to a close, thanks in great part to the successes of the Russian Army in seizing German-held territories. However, the United States still faced a powerful enemy in Japan, and in order to end the war quickly, Roosevelt needed to secure Russia's commitment to the Pacific conflict.

In order to guarantee Stalin's declaration of war on Japan after the European conflict, Roosevelt agreed to a number of large land concessions in Eastern Europe. Stalin was allowed to extend his borders into much of eastern Poland, and the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. Although Stalin guaranteed that the newly annexed nations would be granted self-determined, free democratic elections, it soon became clear that the dictator had no plans of keeping his promise, and the modern Soviet Union was born.
The Cuban Missile Crisis: The Cold War Escalated

The Cuban Missile Crisis lasted only 13 days, but it was the closest the United States and the Soviet Union ever came to nuclear war.

On October 14, 1962 U.S. spy planes discovered Soviet nuclear missile installations being built in Cuba. Two days later President Kennedy and his advisors were informed of the situation. They decided to place a naval blockade around the island to prevent the Soviets from shipping military supplies to the island. The United States then demanded that Russia dismantle its nuclear installations.

On October 22, 1962 Kennedy made his first address to the nation about the crisis. On October 28, 1962, after a tense week of waiting, President Kennedy and Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev agreed on terms for the Soviet withdrawal from Cuba. The Soviet Union dismantled its nuclear installations in Cuba, and the United States did the same with similar installations in Turkey.

Within a year of the crisis, Kennedy and Khruschev had signed the first nuclear disarmament agreement, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and installed the first "hotline" (the famed red phone) between Moscow and Washington to enable direct communication during emergency situations.
Nixon-Brezhnev 1972 Moscow Summit: The Cold War Thawed

From May 22 to May 30, 1972 President Richard Nixon attended a summit in Moscow with Soviet Premier Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev. Perhaps the most important of Nixon's administration, the summit inaugurated a period of increasingly cordial relations between the superpowers.

Often referred to as détente (a French term meaning "a relaxing or easing") the talks saw a pronounced thawing of Cold War tensions. The summit also resulted in the signing of SALT I (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty), effectively freezing the number of strategic ballistic missile launchers allowed to each nation in an attempt to curb the Cold War's costly, and dangerous, arms race.
Reagan–Gorbachev Summits: The Cold War in Space

In 1981, Ronald Reagan took over the presidency, vowing to make "America strong again." Reagan began his first press conference as president by calling the détente policy "a one-way street the Soviet Union has used to pursue its own aims." In contrast to Nixon's efforts to slow the arms race, Reagan increased defense spending by $32.6 billion, and championed the U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative, also know as the "Star Wars" anti-missile defense system. The renewed arms fervor alarmed Moscow officials, prompting the Soviet leadership to turn to 54-year-old reformer Mikhail Gorbachev to broker a new peace between the superpowers.

The four summits that would follow in Geneva in 1985, Reykjavik in 1986, Washington, D.C. in 1987, and Moscow in 1988, would see Reagan's Star Wars plan serve as a constant sticking point for sweeping arms reductions. However, during the Washington, D.C. summit both nations signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, putting a number of caps on nuclear warhead arsenals.

Press Freedom

Anna Politkovskaya

Russian reporter Anna Politkovskaya was a vociferous critic of Russia's policies in Chechnya. On October 7, 2006, she was shot dead in her apartment elevator. In the Western press, suspicion has focused on the Russian authorities.
Alexander Litvinenko

A former KGB agent turned journalist, Litvinenko was poisoned with a radioactive isotope while meeting with a group of fellow Russian’s at a London hotel. He died on November 23, 2006. The dramatic style of his death made international headlines. The Kremlin has been staunch in its refusal to concede to Britain's appeal for the extradition of the chief suspect in the case, another former KGB man, Andrei Lugovoi.
Ivan Safronov

A Muscovite journalist investigating Russian arms deals, Safronov fell to his death on March 2, 2007. He plunged five floors down his apartment building’s stairwell, leaving no suicide note. In the wake of the deaths of Politkovskaya and Litvinenko, journalists were apt to suspect foul play and the Kremlin came under suspicion.

Democratic Protest

Energy Disputes

Russia is a principal source of oil and gas for its former Soviet satellites, countries to which it has provided subsidized energy since the break-up of the USSR. In recent months, Russia has moved to raise energy prices for those increasingly pro-West countries. Critics see this as an overtly political move to regain control over its old sphere of influence. The Kremlin protests that it is merely good business to charge a competitive rate in line with European prices.

On January 1, 2006 Russia cut off gas supplies to Ukraine, closing a pipeline that indirectly feeds gas to other countries in eastern Europe. Some commentators concluded that Russia was punishing Ukraine for the Orange Revolution of 2004, in which the Ukrainian people rejected the Kremlin-backed presidential candidate. However, Gazprom, the Russian energy giant behind the move, said that it was merely charging a fair market rate after years of subsidies.

An independent former Soviet state, Georgia was another country deprived of Russian gas in January 2006. An unusually cold winter was made additionally harsh when near-simultaneous explosions destroyed two important gas pipelines. Georgian President Saakashvili accused Russia of sabotage, claiming that Geogia was being attacked in retaliation for his country’s refusal to sell pipelines to Russia. Russia’s foreign ministry dismissed such remarks as “hysteria.”

Russia suggested Chechen rebels might be to blame for the destruction of the pipelines supplying Georgia. On January 27, 2006 an explosion ruptured a Russian pipeline taking much needed gas into Chechnya during an extremely cold winter.

On January 8 2007, it was oil supplies that were suspended. This time Russia cut off Poland, Germany, and Ukraine amid a trade row between Russia and neighboring Belarus. As with the gas situation in Ukraine the previous winter, Belarus demanded transit fees from Russia after it doubled oil prices. These fees were extracted in oil, siphoned from the transit pipeline, which Russia shut off in retaliation.

In 2004, Gazprom sales amounted to $31 billion. It is the largest producer of natural gas in the world and Russia's largest single company. At the start of 2006, the Russian government acquired a controlling share in Gazprom, and there has been much talk since of the company becoming a tool of foreign policy.

Key Players

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin was born in 1952 in Leningrad. For almost two decades, he worked in the KGB, and was elected president of the Russian Federation in 1999. He is now serving his second term as president. The Russian constitution limits each president to a maximum of two terms, but there is much press speculation that Putin may seek special dispensation to run for a third.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was created in 1948 as a bulwark against Soviet invasion, creating an alliance between Britain, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxemburg. The United States and Canada joined in 1949.  After the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO reinvented itself. In 2002, the NATO–Russia Council was established, allowing Russia to take part in NATO discussions on nonmilitary issues.

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