The diplomatic hyperbole coming out of Russia over the past few months is beginning to produce the opposite effect than was intended by Moscow. Instead of dividing Europe and driving a wedge between the United States and the EU, it seems that the transatlantic ties are warming up, courtesy of Vladimir Putin. Of course when the general perception of the United States is at an all-time low across the globe, a little bit of positive talk about trade and tariff barriers, however modest, looks very good. So while no one should mistake these kinds of gestures of courtship with a marriage proposal, one would hope that Russia will see this as a sign to recalibrate their approach to engaging the West and soften the level of tension. The U.S.-EU Summit held this week showed a closing of the circle in response to the Russia threat, and President Bush even disclosed that Chancellor Merkel is pushing him to step up his rhetoric vis-à-vis Russia on defense issues. Transcript:
PRESIDENT BUSH: As you know, I’m having a regular conversation with the German Chancellor. We have a secure video that is beamed in the White House and her office, and so we consult regularly. And she expressed her concerns that the U.S. position wasn’t really clear about the missile defense systems and that there were some people concerned in Germany, as well as Europe, about our intentions. And she also suggested that it might make sense for me to share my intentions more clearly with President Putin. And I took her advice very seriously. Our intention, of course, is to have a defense system that prevents rogue regimes from holding Western Europe, and/or America, to hostage. Evidently, the Russians view it differently. And so upon the advice of the Chancellor, I asked Secretary Gates to go to Moscow, where he had a very constructive meeting with President Putin. I called President Putin and asked him to see Secretary Gates, and that we would put forth an interesting information-sharing proposal. Our intention is to say to Russia that the system is something you ought to think about participating in. It’s in your interest to have a system that could prevent a future Iranian regime, for example, from launching a weapon — it’s in Russia’s security interests. And therefore, we have started a dialogue, as a result of Secretary Gates’s visit, that hopefully will make explicit our intentions, and hopefully present an opportunity to share with the Russians, so that they don’t see us as an antagonistic force, but see us as a friendly force.