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Monday, September 13, 2004

IHT > Mixed signals are confusing Russia-U.S. ties

: "News Analysis: Steven R. Weisman NYT
Monday, September 13, 2004

WASHINGTON Three tumultuous years ago, President George W. Bush memorably proclaimed that he had looked into the soul of President Vladimir Putin of Russia and found a man with whom he could do business. But if there is any soul-searching going on today in the Bush administration, it is over why the latest attacks by Chechen terrorists in Russia have deepened a recent estrangement between the two countries.

Despite the understandable horror after the massacre of schoolchildren and other attacks, administration officials were taken aback by the almost despairing tone of Putin as he lashed out at the United States last week for suggesting that Chechen demands needed to be addressed politically as well as militarily.

'Why don't you meet Osama bin Laden, invite him to Brussels or to the White House and engage in talks, ask him what he wants and give it to him so he leaves you in peace?' Putin was quoted as telling a group of Western visitors.

After that cri de coeur, Secretary of State Colin Powell hastened to declare that 'there can be no justification for what happened in Russia' and 'no compromise in this battle.' The White House let it be known that Bush had telephoned his soul mate to express condolences. Other officials, responding to Putin's complaint that the United States had granted asylum to a Chechen leader and had contacts with others, said that the asylum case was granted by the courts and that the U.S. government cut off even low-level contact with the Chechens two years ago.

Some administration officials, while they moved quickly to address Putin's concerns, concede that they nonetheless have growing doubts about the nature of his leadership - not just over the bru"

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