Bush will find Russia chilly

Bush and Putin are socializing in different circles before the G-8 meeting.

I can imagine Russian President Vladimir Putin on the phone with President Bush saying, "You sure know how to hurt a guy."

Here is Mr. Putin, preparing to preside for the first time over the G-8 industrial powers in his beloved city of St. Petersburg, where he grew up. And everything that the Bush administration does in a run-up to the summit seems calculated to deprive him of the luster that he's seeking.

In May, in a speech to former Soviet satellites in Vilnius, Lithuania, Vice President Dick Cheney accused the Russians of backsliding on democracy. That led to some angry words between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in an unpublicized meeting in New York.

Then Mr. Bush invited to Washington Mikheil Saakashvili, president of the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, who accused Putin of trying to undermine his government. At a time when tension is growing between Georgia and Moscow, Bush extended a glad hand to Georgia and announced support for bringing Georgia into NATO.

Next, the White House announced that on the way to St. Petersburg, the president would pay a visit to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. It should be noted that Ms. Merkel grew up in East Germany, which was another Soviet colony. In case anybody needed to be reminded of the significance of this visit, the president said that the chancellor "knows what it's like to grow up in a world that isn't free."

So, what you hear from Putin as his summit approaches is what you might call coolness toward the US. He calls Bush a "decent friend" and the US one of Russia's "most important partners."

Well, that's nice, but is Russia willing to support the US when the chips are down? Putin calls North Korea's firing of test missiles disappointing, but says it's within North Korea's legal right. He also calls Iran's response to a Western carrot-and-stick proposal a little on the slow side. But in neither case has the Kremlin indicated it would support an American proposal for sanctions.

And, oh yes, Putin did call Bush to congratulate him on his 60th birthday. That was nice.

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

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