Bush and Putin: Prospects for Progress

NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr looks back at the relationship between President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin and wonders how successful this the current summit will be. For him, the bar for success is lower than in the past.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

President Bush and President Vladimir Putin of Russia are meeting in Kennebunport, Maine, today. The summit will be relatively brief and for NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr, the bar for success has been lowered.

DANIEL SCHORR: When Winston Churchill during World War II coined the phrase meeting at the summit, it was to denote a lofty encounter of grand leaders making grand decisions. A lot of summits have passes under the bridge since then, not all of them friendly, and one that Nikita Khrushchev stormed out of in Paris in 1960.

As to the Bush-Putin summit in Kennebunport, the staff who labor in the foothill signaled that they will be satisfied if Russia-American relations, which have reached some kind of low point don't get any worse.

It was at their first meeting on the Bush ranch in 2001 that George looked into the soul of Vladimir and liked what he saw. It didn't last. It hardly could have - given the different cultures and more to the point, the different interests.

When the American president recently tried(ph) the Russian president for derailing democratic reform, the Russian president fires back by influentially comparing America to Hitler's Third Reich. When United States backed the plan for autonomy for Kosovo, once a province of Serbia, Russia, which regards Serbia as his backyard, threatened to vito the United Nation's plan.

When President Bush projected a missile defense plan, President Putin did not believe that it was aimed only against rouge states and terrorist. And finally, when the United States proposed to locate components of the system in Poland and the Czech Republic, Putin must've flipped his lid about a plan to bring foreigner satellites into a western defense system on his door step.

The Bush administration is stressing the invitation to the Bush compound in Maine as a friendly gesture. With good luck, they'll be on their best behavior for two days. And as summits go these days, that would be called success.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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