Putin Is An Island

No man is an island, the poet John Donne said. If he is well briefed for his summit in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, President Bush should discount Donne's wisdom. For within Russia, President Putin does appear to be an isolated island, at least among the Russian elite who have singularly failed to embrace his decision to anchor Russia firmly to the West.

The elite's gripes about Putin's foreign policy are many, but they center mostly on the notion that America is running roughshod over Russian interests. American troops, they complain, are on the ground in the former Soviet republics of Georgia, Kyrgizstan, Tadjikistan, and Uzbelistan. The next wave of NATO expansion promises to lap onto Russia's border and indeed surpass the old Soviet borders by taking in the Baltic states. Foreign investment has scarcely increased.

Putin, they allege, has surrendered Russia' traditional notions of security and received nothing from the West in return. The crimes they attribute to Putin sound like the indictment for a treason trial.

After making his bold moves towards the West after September 11 th, Putin undoubtedly expected to receive praise and favors in return. Of course, the West's ingratitude has been marked: America withdrew from the 1972 ABM Treaty and has now rammed a vague disarmament agreement - to be signed during the summit and which will allow the US not to destroy surplus missiles and warheads but rather to put them in cold storage - down Putin's throat.