"I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straight forward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul. He's a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country and I appreciate very much the frank dialogue and that's the beginning of a very constructive relationship,"
While Putin was meeting with his advisors in Sochi, Bush was meeting with his national security team at Camp David in Maryland.
Bush, knowing the Sochi meeting was going on and needing an answer quickly since the Russian decision would define American planning, called Putin. They talked for almost an hour. At the end of that conversation, a deal was cut. The Russians would permit the Americans bases in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, would provide the Americans with their top-tier intelligence on Afghanistan and al Qaeda, and would provide immediate logistical support for U.S. intelligence teams moving into Afghanistan. Piecemeal cooperation that had already taken place after September 11 was turned into systematic cooperation. Most important, Russia would allow the Americans access to the Northern Alliance.
In return, the United States would agree to limit its presence in Central Asia in terms of size and length of stay and would agree to force Georgia to shut down arms smuggling. The U.S. would also give the Russians a free hand in Chechnya and take no steps to facilitate the disintegration of Russia. Later on February 21, 2002, after the main fighting in Afghanistan was over, forty American Special Forces troops dressed in civilian clothes landed in Tbilisi, Georgia, to begin the process of closing off the flow of arms, payment on the U.S. end of the bargain.
Putin certainly had his doubts about that strategy by 2001, but he also understood that the Russians were in no position to engage in a geopolitical competition with the United States, especially in its current economic and military position. [...] But refusing to cooperate with the United States over its punitive operations against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan would represent a break by Russia with the United States over an issue so fundamental that it would end any hope of collaboration between the two nations on any level.
The Americans were coming into Central Asia to go after al Queda, and they were going to use the Northern Alliance to do it. The only thing the Russians could achieve by not collaborating was to delay the United States - and to permanently sour relationships. Potentially, there was something to be gained from collaboration and a great deal to be lost from resistance. On September 22, 2001, eleven days after Al Qaeda's attack, the United States had its answer from the Russians: They would help.
George Friedman, America's Secret War, pg 148, 149
Different nations had different concerns. For Russia, the critical
issue was oil. Russia had become one of the world's largest exporters
of energy, and it badly needed the price of oil to remain high. Keeping
Iraqi oil off the market in amounts large enough to maintain global
energy prices was of a vital national interest to the Russians, in spite
of some development projects they had in Iraq. The Russians worried
that the U.S.-Saudi conflict would result in the U.S. trying to crush
the Saudis by pouring Iraqi oil on the world markets.
The Russians knew that surging Iraqi oil production was easier
said than done, but they had also learned never to underestimate
American technical prowess. lf the U.S. did surge Iraqi production,
Saudi Arabia would not be the only victim. If oil prices tanked, Russia's
economy tanked with them.
George Friedman, America's Secret War, pg 270
A basket case in the 1990s, Russia's economy has grown an average of 7% a year for the past five years. The country has paid off a foreign debt that once neared $200 billion. Russia's rich have gotten richer, often obscenely so. But the poor are doing better too: workers' salaries have more than doubled since 2003. True, this is partly a result of oil at $90 a barrel, and oil is a commodity Russia has in large supply. But Putin has deftly managed the windfall and spread the wealth enough so that people feel hopeful.
"I have a very good personal relationship with Mr. Bush," he says. "He is a very reliable partner, a man of honor."
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