HEARD AT A BBQ: Reporter Fred Weir interviewed experts for today's story on Russian skepticism about their leader's US trip (this page). But he didn't learn much that he hadn't already heard at a barbeque at his dacha last weekend. Over lamb and pork shish kebabs, a group of middle-class Russians (typically pro-Western in their outlook) were critical of President Putin's trip to Washington.
"My Russian friends identify with the US concerns about terrorism. They felt the same terror in 1999 when there was a series of bombings in Moscow," says Fred. "But they don't agree with the concessions that Putin is offering. It feels like a another round of giving America what it wants while Russia gets nothing. Their perception is that throughout the 1990s Russia has acquiesced to Western demands, but got nothing in return."
SLEEPLESS IN AFGHANISTAN: The Monitor's Scott Peterson says that the last few days at the front near Kabul have been a series of on-again, off-again late-night reports of a Northern Alliance offensive (page 1). At 10 p.m. Friday night, Reuters reported an offensive would begin at 2 a.m. Scott raced to the front, 30 to 45 minutes away, to confirm the information. It was a false alarm. The next day, he was told by a commander that 8 a.m. was the time for the offensive. Scott showed up at 7 a.m. But no moves. President Bush was later heard on the radio, saying the Northern Alliance should wait to take Kabul. Scott went home.
That night, Scott got an urgent radio call, saying the offensive was starting, come now. He raced to the front, only to find Northern Alliance commanders channel surfing. "They'd just bought a new satellite TV dish, probably with the money we've been paying our interpreter, a relative of a commander," says Scott. He was invited to sleep on the floor of the commander's house. The offensive would start at 3 a.m. What happened? The usual. Late the next day, the Northern Alliance began its push toward Kabul.
David Clark Scott
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