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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Approach to Moscow Expected

WASHINGTON - The key to the Bush administration's new relationship with Russia is likely to be George W. Bush's determination to push ahead with a national defense against missiles.

Russia won't like it - nor will many U.S. allies.

Overall, more than a tactical adjustment is expected from the new president in Russia policy, although little has been revealed in Bush's first few days in the White House.

Like former President Bill Clinton's decision to expand the NATO military alliance, the ambitious missile defense program is sure to unnerve Russia and prompt the new administration either to respond with no more than a few placating words or to pursue a deal designed to entice the Russians into going along.

One approach could be to negotiate deep cutbacks in U.S. and Russian long-range nuclear warheads beyond the 50 percent reduction called for by the 1992 START II treaty.

That might help ease Russia's anxieties about the U.S. arsenal. But whatever choice Bush makes, Secretary of State Colin Powell made clear at his Senate confirmation hearing last week that "our relations with Russia must not be dictated by any fear on our part."

For example, he said, if the new administration decides on another expansion of NATO, "we should not fear that Russia will object; we will do it because it is in our interest."

Powell depicted Russia as "a great country" that could derive enormous benefits from its relations with the United States. He did not describe the relationship in terms of benefit to the United States, though.

Eight years ago, the Clinton administration went out of its way to greet the new Russia that emerged from the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Critics complained that the warmth bordered on naive exuberance - it was as though President Boris Yeltsin and the new capitalist oligarchy could do no wrong.

During last year's presidential campaign, Bush accused his opponent, Vice President Al Gore, of looking the other way while Russia sold potent weapons to Iran.

The new administration has set as a goal stopping such sales.

Further pinching the hard-pressed Russian economy, Bush warned after his election that he would cut off direct U.S. financial aid that is aimed at stimulating a market economy until significant reforms are carried out.

Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies does not expect serious changes until the new administration completes its intelligence and policy assessments, a process that could take months.

One policy Cordesman expects to see continued is a joint project with Russia to help dismantle nuclear weapons banned by treaties. Cordesman said the Bush administration might try to expand it to cover biological weapons as well.

And, he said, "they are going to have to renegotiate the whole issue of arms traffic with Iran."

Michael Mandelbaum of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies said he expected two major changes: Going ahead with a ballistic missile defense and extending membership for the Baltic nations in NATO.

"To the Russians this is unacceptable and will put us on a collision course," he said.

Ariel Cohen of the Heritage Foundation foresees likely cooperation with Russia in at least four areas: strategic arms reduction, economic development, space exploration and fighting international terrorism.

In other areas, such as a national missile defense and the spread of weapons of mass destruction, he said, "Washington will need to be both careful and cautious in addressing its concerns with Moscow."

Ivo Daalder of the Brookings Institution said the biggest change he expects in U.S. foreign policy is disagreement among Bush's advisers after eight years of Clinton-era unity.

Powell's view of the world is very different from the view of Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Daalder said. "Powell, first and foremost, talks about opportunities. They talk about threats and challenges."