Just over six years ago, straight after the Sept 11 attacks in the United States, telephone summitry produced a strategic pact between the US and Russian presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin for the purpose of doing battle with al Qaeda and the world Islamic terrorist movement.
The initiative was Putin’s. The partnership did not survive long, It began falling apart under the weight of America’s spreading influence and bases across Central Asia and the Caspian Sea coastline.
In early 2003, as the American invasion of Iraqi drew near, the cracks widened with Moscow’s implacable opposition to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the US conquest of Iraq.
To Putin’s credit it must be said that he was the only world leader who warned Bush of the trap Saddam and his sons had prepared for the US army; a guerrilla war into which US troops would be drawn inexorably after toppling the Baath regime (and reported in detail six months before the Iraq war by DEBKA-Net-Weekly 77 Sept 20, 2002: Saddam’s Secret Army).
The Russian leader let Bush know that his information had come from Russian military intelligence-GRU, but the US president and his intelligence advisers decided not to heed the warning.
Now, after a series of disappointments over Washington’s attitude on Chechnya and the Washington-engineered revolutions in the Ukraine and Georgia Putin is again signaling Bush that he is willing to go back to their strategic alliance against Islamic extremists and global terror.
In the last few days, he posted a note to the White House to this effect. The US president responded Thursday, Nov. 10 by adding a visit to Moscow on his way to the Asia-Pacific Economic Summit on November 18-19 in Hanoi .The Moscow stop was initially planned for a refueling of Air Force One but the White House decided that Bush would stay for a meeting with Putin.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Washington and Moscow sources, who questioned senior officials familiar with the Putin message to Bush which prompted the White House decision, are able to paraphrase this message.
Give us a break. Our democracy is young and fragile
The Russian president starts by complaining that the Americans are ready to enter into strategic dialogue with the whole world except Moscow. He understands that Washington has a problem with Russia’s brand of democracy as well as its human rights performance and the way its minorities are treated. But he asks the United States to remember one fundamental circumstance: Russia’s state and society lived for 74 years under communist rule. Only 15 years have elapsed since communism collapsed. Even Germany needed 20 to 40 years to de-Nazify its governance. It is still early days for Russian democracy, Putin points out, and the Americans must be patient because the process can only go forward in slow and careful steps. It is fragile and the risk of failing is great, because then communist rule will return to the Kremlin.
Putin says he has gone into this explanation because neither side can understand the other without dialogue. It is important, he says for two strategic partners to open up and to talk plainly and frankly about their problems without fear.
In the Russian president’s view, The United States is losing ground in the international arena and is badly in need of faithful allies before it can start recovering. Putin does not see such an ally. Take the Europeans, he says; they have no military clout to speak of and don’t see eye to eye with America on almost any issue. Looking east, Japan will be bogged down in internal debate over whether or not it needs an army for the next generation or two.
Therefore, according to Putin, the United States shares with Russia four cardinal problems:
– Islamic terror
For America, after its debacle in Iraq, Putin says, Russia represents the only viable option for help in restoring US standing in the Muslim world.
Saudi Arabia and the oil emirates are in flight from their exclusive dependence on America and have plunged into strategic changes that will lead them to alternative powers able to bolster their security and stability.
Putin: America needs Russia to help its recovery
The Arab petrocrats have further turned their backs on their main source of weapons and are dumping their US dollar reserves in favor of the euro and yuan. This trend is gaining strength in recent weeks, causing the dollar to slump.
Of course, Putin comments, we in Moscow understand that the falling dollar is also good for American exports and makes imports more expensive. We are also aware that you have not said a word to the Saudis and emirs about their financial dealings and will keep silent so as long as they help maintain the price of oil at around $60 a barrel.
But on the other hand, you are beginning to realize that your control of the world energy market is slipping and, if the current trends persist, that control will shrink further.
You have reached the point when you cannot pursue any further major steps in the energy market except in conjunction with Saudi Arabia and the oil emirates – or with us, Moscow.
Here the Russian president turns to Lebanon.
You, the Americans, accused us of consigning to Hizballah via Syria and the Iranians anti-tank rockets, although you knew that the charge was false. What happened was the reverse. When Russian military intelligence found out the Syrians were about to let Hizballah have a large quantity of advanced long-range ground rockets, we stymied the consignment.
The Russian ruler does explain how this was done.
He ends his message by proposing that Moscow and Washington start a quiet, personal and friendly dialogue that will lead to cooperation on issues that are vital to both parties. If Washington turns him down, says Putin, he will have to opt for an alternative strategic partner. He hopes this does not happen because the forces of the past, the communists, are waiting in the wings to move in.