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No disPutin

Foreign Policy | All's well between Bush and Russia's Putin, leaving the primary U.S. missile-defense opposition to Democrats

Issue: "The Marriage Amendment," June 8, 2002

Bright-eyed optimism about a new unfolding European story surrounded President Bush's trip to Europe, and nowhere did TeamBush officials emphasize that optimism more than about Russia.

Reporters asked how NATO's new joint council with Russia would operate if that nation were to return to a more hostile, expansionist tradition. Secretary of State Colin Powell found that almost unimaginable: "I don't think we're going to see a rerun of this movie.... I see no reason why any future Russian leader with a state that is only, oh, roughly 55 percent of the size of the old Soviet Union would find it in its interest in any way to try to act in an aggressive manner."

Mr. Bush's warming relationship with Russia and its leader Vladimir Putin is a matter of pride to the White House. But even as arms-control enthusiasts praised the newly signed Treaty of Moscow, TeamBush sought to soothe conservative supporters. The text of the new agreement, they pointed out, nowhere commits America to the anti-ballistic missile (ABM) treaty, which is seen as an obstacle to development of a high-tech missile-defense system. (The biggest obstacle to missile defense is not in Moscow, anyway; it's in Washington, where Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee, led by Sen. Carl Levin, are working to slice $1 billion away from the $10 billion devoted to missile-defense development.)

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While White House press aides stressed Mr. Bush's points of agreement with European leaders and downplayed differences, some reporters highlighted the opposite during protests in Berlin. NBC's Campbell Brown promoted "a mostly peaceful protest denouncing the president they believe is looking for war. Even the German media [are] portraying Bush as a Rambo-like cowboy intent on going after Saddam Hussein with or without Europe's support."

But the potential war on Iraq is one place where usually tight-lipped military officials are leaking, sending a clear signal to the world that there's another rerun that won't be on television sets this fall.

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