America's Real Russian Allies

Courtesy Reuters


The terrorist attacks that rocked the United States on September 11 opened a new chapter in the country's relations with the outside world. Already alliances are shifting, U.S. troops are redeploying, and policymakers are rapidly rewriting their agendas. It remains unclear just what the world will look like once the dust settles. But as we enter a new and undefined era, it is becoming increasingly evident that, just as America's competition with the Soviet Union defined the second half of the last century, so will its new relationship with Russia help determine the contours of the new one.

So far, both Russia's president and its people have given the United States vigorous support since September 11. The budding personal relationship between Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush might have had few practical results before that day, but it seemed very much in evidence when Putin became the first world leader to speak with Bush after the attacks, and again when, days later, Moscow pledged wide-ranging Russian support for the American response. Meanwhile, a great many Russians -- party leaders, civic activists, businesspeople, and ordinary citizens -- have expressed sympathy for those in the United States. According to one Russian poll, 85 percent of Muscovites feel that the attacks were aimed not only at the United States, but at all of mankind.

Putin, of course, has good reason to show solidarity with Washington -- at least for now. Russia's president is keen to link America's new battle against terrorism with his own country's campaign against rebels in Chechnya. And indeed, the connection Putin draws is not without merit. After all, Osama bin Ladin has sponsored violence in both Russia and the United States. In the longer run, however, Putin's pro-American stance may begin to waver. Despite the early cooperation, senior Russian military and intelligence officers are already pushing Putin to retreat to old ways of thinking about international politics -- to regard NATO troops in Central Asia with suspicion and to worry

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