Taking Russia to the Ranch

President Bush's charm offensive in Europe last week seems to have worked better on Russia than the European Union. At least President Vladimir Putin was invited to visit the Bush ranch in Texas.

That kind of personal rapport between the two "great power" leaders will be essential if Mr. Bush is to win over Mr. Putin to his ideas on missile defenses and on bringing former Soviet states into NATO. The two men immediately set their security officials to work on the details.

The American with an MBA was also charmed by the Russian with a spy degree. Perhaps seeing himself in Putin, Bush found him to be "a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country." Their 90-minute summit in the Alps led Bush to believe he can work closely with Putin on redefining global security, but with an accommodation of Russian interests.

As over the past decade, winning over Russia has meant paying hard cash. And in this case that will likely mean paying for Russian-made surface-to-air missiles that could be used in a defensive shield.

While Putin mouthed the usual objection to Bush's missile defense plan, he did nonetheless borrow a phrase from the Bush team by saying he will continue to discuss "building a new architecture of security in the world." That's code for Bush's plan to seek missile defenses while also trying to reduce the number and the spread of nuclear missiles. The two left the impression that they can strike a deal, which would also likely win over US allies in Europe.

Bush's most lasting statement on this trip was that "every European nation that struggles toward democracy and free markets and a strong civic culture must be welcomed into Europe's home." And he defined the American-European alliance as having a "shared civilization" based on classical and Judeo-Christian values.

In a speech in Warsaw, Bush said: "Just as man cannot be reduced to a means of production, he must find goals greater than mere consumption.The European ideal is inconsistent with a life defined by gain and greed and the lonely pursuit of self.

"It calls for consideration and respect, compassion and forgiveness - the habits of character on which the exercise of freedom depends.

"And all these duties and all these rights are ultimately traced to a source of law and justice above our wills and beyond our politics - an author of our dignity, who calls us to act worthy of our dignity. This belief is more than a memory, it is a living faith.... We share more than an alliance.We share a civilization. Its values are universal, and they pervade our history and our partnership."

Supporting Russia to live up to those ideals, rather than only confronting it on its failings, was just the message Bush needed to deliver.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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