Vlad and W's 'excellent relationship'

President Bush and Putin appear to be developing a special relationship of a rather special sort.

They criticize each other for the benefit of their home galleries, then get together for what seems to be cordial sessions dealing with situations where they have a common interest.

Thus it was that, last Saturday in Riga, Mr. Bush criticized continuing Russian interference in the Baltic states and said that the growth of democracy would determine the greatness of Russia - suggesting that Russia had a long way to go.

And Mr. Putin, appearing on CBS-TV's "60 Minutes," called Bush's invasion of Iraq "a mistake." He decried corruption in the United States and said that the president had been put in the White House by a court. Putin also said that former CBS anchor Dan Rather had been fired from CBS under pressure from the administration.

But all that asperity seemed to vanish once Bush arrived in Moscow.

He met in private at Putin's country dacha. They appeared outside the dacha together, apparently best friends.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called it "an excellent relationship."

In their meeting, Secretary Rice said they discussed North Korea's and Iran's nuclear ambitions, the Middle East, and trade.

Putin, who will chair the meeting of the G-8 industrial powers in the summer of 2006, is seeking American support for membership in the World Trade Organization.

Monday's parade through Red Square marking the 60th anniversary of V-E Day underlined the delicacy of Russia's relationship with the outside world.

One would have expected the gathered leaders to review the parade from the huge balcony of the Lenin mausoleum, from which Stalin proclaimed victory over Hitler's forces.

But, with Stalin enjoying something of a comeback in Russia, Putin chose to erect a special reviewing stand, partly obscuring the mausoleum.

Daniel Schorr is the senior news analyst at National Public Radio.

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