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A Summit Doomed to Succeed
An Essay by NPR's Daniel Schorr

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Daniel Schorr
Daniel Schorr

Nov. 12, 2001 -- This is a summit that seems doomed to succeed and take Russia and the United States a long step towards partnership. The Sherpas down in the foothills are polishing off a reported seven statements of understanding on everything from the future of Afghanistan to reduction of offensive nuclear missiles.

The long-rankling issue of American missile defense is apparently to be finessed by retaining the ABM Treaty while allowing the United States to test missile defense components. As important to the Bush administration as formal agreements is Russia's stated refusal to go along with OPEC in reducing oil exports, and President Putin's offer to be a long-term oil supplier for America.

The warming of relations between leaders and governments has been evident in three meetings, starting with the Bush-Putin encounter in Slovenia last spring. But the threat of terrorism has obviously helped to propel them into each other's arms.

"In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, Putin said he felt personally to blame for talking about a threat without doing enough to counter it, a polite way of saying the United States had not taken him seriously enough."

Daniel Schorr

Russia was, in fact, ahead of the United States in recognizing the terrorist danger. In a meeting with American correspondents after the Slovenia summit last June, Putin pointed to terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and called on the United States to cooperate in dealing with Taliban extremism.

In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, Putin said he felt personally to blame for talking about a threat without doing enough to counter it, a polite way of saying the United States had not taken him seriously enough. But Presidents Bush and Putin appear to be taking each other very seriously now.

The Russian president is letting it be known that in the face of some opposition at home, he's making a long-term commitment towards bringing Russia into the Western camp. And President Bush, in the face of some reservations in his administration, is ready to bring Russia closer to the Western alliance.

Alliances sometimes just happen under the press of events. While NATO allies like Britain, Germany and Italy discuss what military contribution they will make, the Northern Alliance deploys Russian tanks as American planes soar overhead.

Daniel Schorr is a senior news analyst for NPR.