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A week has passed since the conclusion of the meetings between Presidents Bush and Putin in Washington, D.C., and Crawford, Texas. These meetings were the culmination of an historic period in U.S.-Russian cooperation that may well be viewed as a watershed in our relations.
Although the Cold War ended officially a decade ago, U.S.-Russian relations over the last ten years were still colored by the suspicions and mistrust of the past. Russia, of course, was going through a difficult period of transition and turmoil, with many false starts and missed opportunities on the path to democracy and a free-market economy. Internationally, Russia remained in a kind of no-man's-land -- seeking integration with the West, but not always capable of shedding the zero-sum thinking of the Soviet era. While there were many positive gains in Russia's relations with the United States and the other Western nations, including major steps to reduce the risk of nuclear war, the decade ended with a sense of disappointment and uncertainty.
Things began to change this year. Russia's reform process finally began to gain traction, with a solid economic turnaround after the 1998 crash and an impressive package of reform legislation enacted by the Duma. U.S.-Russian relations got back on a positive track with the first Bush-Putin meetings in Ljubljana in June and Genoa in July. These led to intensive consultations on strategic arms and missile defense, along with high-level U.S. efforts to expand the economic and trade relationship.
But it was the terrorist acts of September 11 that gave the relationship an even stronger impetus: they served as the catalyst for the transformation of the relationship announced by the U.S. and Russian Presidents at Washington and Crawford.
The strategic choice by President Putin to give Russia's full support to the anti-terrorist coalition had a dramatic effect on the Administration leadership and the American public. That choice made clear that our two countries, together with other Western democracies, were now operating on the basis of shared interests and shared values, and not on the basis of tactical necessity alone.
The common mission -- to destroy the terrorists and those who harbor them -- led to unprecedented forms of political and military cooperation and the sharing of the most sensitive intelligence information between Washington and Moscow. The epic nature of the new threat also helped put some of the still-contentious issues on the U.S.-Russian agenda into their proper perspective, and gave both sides a greater incentive to look for constructive solutions.
In making his strategic choice, President Putin proved himself to be a man who has grasped that the Cold War is truly over, that the United States and Russia are no longer rivals but friendly powers pursuing many of the same goals. The meetings in Washington and Crawford confirmed that our two countries have embarked on a new relationship for a new century. They strengthened our joint commitment to cooperate on a wide range of issues, and highlighted the extraordinarily warm personal relations between the two leaders. And on those issues where our countries still differ, such as Iraq and Iran, the meetings showed our ability to address our differences frankly, but without allowing them to overshadow our common interests.
At the top of the list of the Summit's major achievements was the agreement by the two leaders to carry out dramatic reductions in U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear forces. President Bush announced that the United States will reduce to a level between 1700 and 2200 warheads over the next decade (down from over 7000 today). President Putin announced that Russia will make comparable reductions. The next step is to codify these reductions, to include measures for verification, without the multi-year negotiations that used to be necessary in Cold War days.
As to ballistic missile defenses, we will keep working on this issue. The ABM [Anti-Ballistic Missile] Treaty prohibits the testing that the United States must conduct in order to develop effective, but limited missile defenses against rogue-state threats. But whether or not we find a solution, both Presidents made clear their determination to develop a new strategic framework for the long term -- one that is more in keeping with our new relationship and takes account of the changes in the strategic situation since the ABM Treaty was signed 29 years ago. A new framework should enable our two countries to meet future threats together.
The Summit also highlighted our cooperation to prevent or counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. This includes continued efforts to improve the physical security and accounting of nuclear materials so that terrorists and those who support them can never acquire such weapons. Of special importance was a joint statement on "bioterrorism" -- especially timely after the recent anthrax incidents in the U.S. Russian and American officials and experts will work together to prevent terrorists from acquiring biological weapons and on related health measures to protect our populations.
The two Presidents devoted considerable time to Russia's relationship with NATO. They declared that Russia and NATO are increasingly acting as allies against terrorism and other new threats, and that the NATO-Russia relationship should reflect this alliance. Our common task is to devise new mechanisms for cooperation, coordinated action and joint decisions that can integrate Russia more closely in NATO's work.
Beyond these security questions, Presidents Bush and Putin also addressed ways to expand our dynamic economic relationship and promote Russia's full integration into the world economy.
We will work to accelerate Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization, based on the standard conditions that other countries have followed. The Summit also announced steps to support the expansion of small and medium-sized business in Russia, and a "Banking Dialogue" to help close one of the gaps in the Russian reform process.
Our Presidents also discussed human rights, religious freedom, and the independent media. They welcomed the initiative of Russian and American media executives, journalists, and independent organizations to convene a "Media Entrepreneurship Dialogue" aimed at improving the conditions necessary for media to flourish as a business in Russia.
In short, the Washington/Crawford Summit showed that the United States and Russia are taking giant steps to transform their relationship. In the future, we will act as genuine partners -- indeed, as allies. Moreover, unlike our alliance in World War II, we are united not just by a common enemy, but by common values of democracy, liberty and the rule of law.
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