The Two Faces of U.S.-Russia Relations

President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin tend to criticize each other in public, but in private meetings they are cordial to one another — sometimes even warm and friendly.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

President Bush is in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. That's the fourth stop on his European trip. Earlier he joined Russian President Vladimir Putin at a huge ceremony in Moscow's Red Square marking the 60th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany. The event has NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr thinking about the relationship between the two leaders.

DANIEL SCHORR:

Presidents Bush and Putin appear to be developing a special relationship of a rather special sort. They criticize each other for the benefit of their home galleries, then get together for what seems to be cordial sessions dealing with situations where they have common interests.

And thus it was Saturday in Riga, Latvia, Mr. Bush criticized continuing Russian interference in the Baltic states and said that the growth of democracy would determine the greatness of Russia, suggesting that Russia had a long way to go. And Putin, appearing on CBS "60 Minutes" last night, called Mr. Bush's invasion of Iraq a mistake. He decried corruption in the United States and said that the president had been put in the White House by a court. Putin also said that Dan Rather had been, in Putin's words, `fired from CBS under pressure from the administration.'

But all that asperity seemed to vanish once the president arrived in Moscow. He met in private in Putin's country dacha. They appeared together outside the dacha, apparently best friends. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called it an excellent relationship. In their meeting, Secretary Rice said they discussed North Korea's and Iran's nuclear ambitions, the Middle East and trade. Putin, who will chair the meeting of the G8 industrial powers next summer, is seeking American support for membership in the World Trade Organization.

Today's parade through Red Square marking the 60th anniversary of V-E Day underlined the delicacy of Russia's relationship with the outside world. One would have expected the gathered leaders to review the parade from the huge balcony of the Lenin Mausoleum, from which Stalin proclaimed victory over Hitler's forces. But with Stalin enjoying something of a comeback in Russia, Putin chose to erect a special reviewing stand obscuring the mausoleum. This is Daniel Schorr.

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