other opiniions

Bush and Putin

Good ole boyism’

counts for little

President Bush says he came away from his first meeting with Russian President Vladimir V. Putin with “a sense of his soul” and a belief that the former Soviet KGB operative is “trustworthy.” That effusive summing up, based on only two hours of talks, follows a presidential campaign that saw Bush scolding his predecessor for being too soft on Russia and signals from Bush advisers that a harder line toward Moscow was in the offing.

Democrats aren’t about to let Bush’s apparent about-face pass without comment. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr., D-Del., says that he for one doesn’t trust Putin and he hopes the Bush remarks were more style than substance. As American presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman on have learned, it is not personalities and bonhomie that determine how Washington’s relations with Moscow go; it is bedrock considerations of national interests and the policies to carry them out.

Bush and Putin plan to meet again, at a G-8 summit next month and later in Russia and at Bush’s Texas ranch. Meanwhile, high-level officials plan to talk over strategic and political issues. The Bush-Putin get-acquainted session was a sunny moment. But the contest of national interests goes on, and the challenge of reconciling competing U.S. and Russian goals is as great as ever.

- Los Angeles Times