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Putin's NATO Alignment
An Essay by NPR's Daniel Schorr

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Daniel Schorr
Daniel Schorr

Nov. 11, 2001 -- President Putin likes it to be known that on Sept. 11, he was the first foreign leader to call President Bush, reaching him on Air Force One. “America, we are with you,” he announced to the world -- and now that's becoming more than metaphoric.

Putin has clearly made a strategic decision in the face of some internal opposition to put Russia's destiny in the West. Secretary of State Colin Powell has said not only is the Cold War over, the post-Cold War period is also over.

What that means starts with a deal all but formalized that will break the deadlock over American missile defense and a treaty banning such defense. A formula's being found that will permit missile defense testing and drastically reduce the number of offensive missiles on both sides. But that is only the start.

"Lenin and Stalin should see Putin this week, living it up on a Texas ranch of the top leader of the capitalist world."

Daniel Schorr

Putin was in Brussels on Oct. 3 for a long private discussion with NATO's Secretary-General George Robertson. According to an account circulating among NATO governance, Putin talked of his intense hatred for Islamic extremism, starting with the Afghan Taliban. He said he no longer saw any reason why Russia shouldn't be a member of NATO, but a primary member with a voice in making NATO policies. He said all his fundamental values were Western.

We are likely to hear more of that this week, but we're also likely to hear some of the responses that Putin would like, in turn, from President Bush. Symbolically important: repeal of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment. The Soviet Union and Russia have bridled under that 1974 Cold War provision that banned normal trading privileges as long as Russia restricted Jewish immigration.

That no longer has any effect, but it has to be lifted before Russia can join the World Trade Organization. Then Russia needs economic aid in the form of loans and debt relief. Not quid pro quo, Russian officials will assure you, but the way good partners treat each other.

Last Wednesday, several thousand Russians carrying Soviet flags and portraits of Lenin and Stalin turned out in Red Square for a defiant observance of the anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Lenin and Stalin should see Putin this week, living it up on a Texas ranch of the top leader of the capitalist world.

Daniel Schorr is a senior news analyst for NPR.