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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Straight Talk Was Secret to Success

Nuclear weapons treaties are always newsworthy, especially when they involve two nations in possession of the world's largest arsenals. For the average Russian, however, the signing of the Treaty of Moscow on Friday by George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin was not the end of a long chapter of confrontation, as Bush said, or the end of the Cold War, as many Western commentators suggested.

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Indeed, for more than a decade, with the exception of a handful of ideologically entrenched military and security types, there has been little hand wringing over whether America has 6,000 nuclear warheads or 2,200. Throughout the post-Soviet period, in fact, the main cold war fought with any fervor in this country has been over heating and electricity bills.

If anything, the Bush-Putin summit seems to have ended a much more turbulent and dangerous period for Russia and its relationship with the rest of the world. In contrast to the Yeltsin-Clinton era, which saw the U.S. take an active and often overzealous or counterproductive role (in part through institutions it dominates, such as the IMF) in Russia's frenzied transition to a market economy, the Putin-Bush era, if the summit is any guide, will be more businesslike, more grounded in reality -- more sober, if you will.

This is a welcome development. Russia needs more investment from American companies. It needs a strong, tough-willed partner that will point out its weaknesses and not ignore due diligence for the sake of political expediency. It doesn't need a partner, no matter the motives, that baits it with billions of dollars in fast credits that only exacerbate and delay the inevitable, as was the case in the 1990s.

The best thing Bush can do for Russia is the very thing Bush is apparently best at --telling it like it is. To hear Bush tell it, Russia is a great investment opportunity and much progress has been made on leveling the playing field, a requirement for any responsible investor. But he also pointed out, rightly, that much more needs to be accomplished -- bank and court reform, for example -- if Russia is to achieve its aim of fully integrating into the world economy.

The summit may not have produced any breakthroughs regarding economic cooperation, but it did, more than any preceding summit, lay the groundwork for a mutually profitable long-term business relationship -- one based on straight talk and reality. Unlike their predecessors, Putin and Bush behave more like chief executives toward each other than old army buddies, which is a sign of the times. The arms treaty may have dominated the headlines, but for Russia this summit was about prosperity, not proliferation.