US President George W. Bush will not be going to Beijing after or before his St. Petersburg summit with Russian president Vladimir Putin at the end of this week, as he made a point of doing last year. His stopovers in Europe are also a lot too cursory for the liking of most Europeans.
Indeed, this trip signals above all the US president’s decision to put most if not all his military and foreign eggs into the joint US-Russian basket.
This partnership hinges heavily on the two leaders’ common plans to develop Central Asian and Caspian oil reserves and its means of transportation, as the free world’s alternative to dependence on Middle East-Gulf energy. It is strongly cemented by the exceptional personal affinity binding the two world leaders since they embarked on their strategic collaboration in the US-led global war on terror.
Their policy goals call for vast US financial aid to Russia and massive US investments in Central Asia and the Caspian. Moscow’s quid pro quo will be a one-way commitment by President Putin to subject his external policies to the dictates of the Moscow-Washington military, political and intelligence collaboration pact. For example, Russia will have to adjust its arms-to-India sales program to the interests of its burgeoning ties with the US.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Washington and Moscow sources, the four most ticklish items on the Bush-Putin summit’s Moscow agenda this week are:
1. Russia’s role in the coming US offensive against Iraq – and possibly also Iran.
2. Moscow-Beijing relations vis-a-vis the Washington-Moscow entente.
3. Continuing US-Russian intelligence collaboration in the war on global terror
4. Their joint posture on the accelerating India-Pakistan war threat.
As the series of exclusive DEBKA-Net-Weekly articles below will show, Putin faces tough dilemmas on the path forward in his close collaboration with Bush.
He will have to discard the Moscow-Baghdad intelligence relationship that goes back decades, as well as the long Russian tradition of investing in this outlet to warm water ports.
As for Iran, Putin will be put on the carpet for failing to pull out of lucrative Russian transactions with the ayatollahs, despite his promises to Washington. Bush will force him to choose between those transactions and a stake in their future Central Asian and Caspian oil plans.
Both these dilemmas will be examined by DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s analysts in an article below.
The Russian president may find it even harder to put a distance between Moscow and Beijing after decades of strategic, ideological and neighborly ties.
As DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s China and Far East expert will show in additional articles, Moscow and Beijing, though far from trusting each other, have attained a form of strategic equilibrium based on their mutually advantageous defense trade and Russian accommodations in the face of Chinese territorial claims and aggressive economic expansion. Of late, Russia has pulled in its Far Eastern horns to allow a form of controlled Chinese ascendancy in the region.
In talking to Bush, Putin will need to practice some pretty tricky footwork to fine-tune his strategic, military intelligence and arms supply policies to American-Russian interests – or perhaps use them to maneuver for a better deal with the US.