Strained Russian Relations Greet Bush in Europe In Europe, President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin have exchanged strong words over a proposed American anti-missile defense system to be located in Eastern Europe. Gottemoeller says Russia strongly opposes the missile shield, and the Russian-American relationship is more tense now than it has been in many years.
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Strained Russian Relations Greet Bush in Europe

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Strained Russian Relations Greet Bush in Europe

Strained Russian Relations Greet Bush in Europe

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What should the U.S. make of Russian anger over missile defenses in Eastern Europe and the warning from Vladimir Putin that Russia might feel obliged to target European cities with its missiles?

Rose Gottemoeller is director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Center in Moscow. And she joins us from there. Welcome to the program.

Ms. ROSE GOTTEMOELLER (Director, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Center, Moscow): Thank you.

SIEGEL: Presidents Putin and Bush are going to be meeting in early July. Do the issues that have prompted such testy comments recently pose a serious threat to U.S.-Russian relations, or can it all be resolved pretty easily?

Ms. GOTTEMOELLER: I think these issues will not be resolved easily, but I think what we are seeing now is a gathering storm. We've had the accumulation of frustration over the past several months. And now a storm is brewing. It's seems to be brewing around the G8 summit in Germany, however. And I believe that tactically, Putin have decided he wants to be at his nastiest going into this G8 summit in Germany, so perhaps he can be nicer by the time the two men get to Kennebunk Fort in the first days of July.

SIEGEL: Put us in Vladimir Putin's shoes as best you can here, looking at the G8 summit. How disturbed is he about missile defenses, which the U.S. insists are all about a rouge state, perhaps Iran? Does he see it differently? Is it the symbolism of the thing? How it might be developed further? What's his problem?

Ms. GOTTEMOELLER: I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that the Russians believe they were never consulted. That they believe that the United States just marched out and talked to the Pols and the Czechs about beginning these negotiations without really talking to the Moscow about it. I know the Bush administration says otherwise, but that's a firmly held belief inside the Kremlin and in the Russian public as well. And the result of that is that there's a huge amount of anger that has not been dissipated by all of the Bush administration's offers, to cooperate on missile defense and I think that that is a real anger.

There is an internal political aspect to all these, however, as well. I'm quite convinced that Putin is trying to maintain his lame-duck status in some kind of shape for as long as possible. He doesn't want to loose his authority and his power and so he's decided he's going to really take a striding tone and to appear the tough guy and hope that that will buy him some support and continuing enthusiasm in the military complex - that's important - and also among the Russian public who might be concern about threats coming from Europe or the United States, looking back to the old Cold War days. So, I do think there's a domestic political aspect as well.

SIEGEL: And when you speak of his lame-duck status, you mean he's at the end of his time as president, therefore he would perhaps want to have some reason to be seen as still more authoritative at this stage.

Ms. GOTTEMOELLER: That is correct. It's very interesting that he and President Bush are going to be the longest serving presidents at this G8 meeting in Germany. It turns out everybody else is fairly new at the job by comparison with them.

SIEGEL: do you think that Russians - President Putin and those in power and ordinary Russians - is there an element of simply being offended by the U.S. dealing with the Pols and the Czechs more directly than dealing with Russians? It is assumed to value the Czech Republic or Poland as much as they value what used to be until relatively recently a superpower?

Ms. GOTTEMOELLER: That's a very good point and I think you've really hit the nail on the head. But there's another aspect to that and that is over the last several years, inside the context of the NATO-Russia council, that's a cooperative council involve in NATO and Russia together in the same room at the same table. And they have actually developed there a very active set of cooperative activities on theater missile defense including some joint exercises, even in Colorado Springs and other intensive activities, planning for some technology cooperation.

And all of a sudden the United States marches off to Poland and to the Czech Republic and says let's do this on a bilateral basis. Let's not work this inside the NATO house and in the NATO-Russia council. So, I think that has been frustrating to the Russians and frankly it's raised some questions in NATO as well. As certain countries say, hmm, what's going on here?

SIEGEL: Well, Rose Gottemoeller, thank you very much for talking with us.

Ms. GOTTEMOELLER: You're welcome.

SIEGEL: Rose Gottemoeller is director of the Moscow Center of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

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