Reuters reports that when President Bush meets Vladimir Putin this Sunday, the United States and Russia will sign what an unidentified Kremlin source describes as “a joint document which will become a road map of our cooperation during a transitional period and for the medium term.” Yesterday, Russian spokesman Dmitry Peskov, commenting on the document, said this: “Of course we have to register all the achievements during the two terms of presidents Bush and Putin.”
It’s good that the two countries want to accentuate the positive, but the upcoming summit between the friendly leaders runs the risk of irrelevance. As Jim Hoagland wrote on Friday, Bush and Putin wish to end their relationship as presidents “in the soft glow of mutual legacy-burnishing . . . They will leave relations between the White House and the Kremlin mired in a rare soggy middle ground of extended ambivalence.”
I hope Hoagland’s wrong: there’s no lack of substantive issues to tackle. There are, for instance, NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine, America’s planned missile defense system for Europe, Russia’s adherence to the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, the extension of START, recognition of Kosovo’s independence, the Kremlin’s support for the Iranian nuclear program, Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization, and Moscow’s supply of advanced weaponry to China.
Bush, as we all know, leaves office soon. Back-slapping with the Russian autocrat in his seaside dacha seems like a particularly bad use of time, especially at this crucial moment.