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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin, Bush Pressed Ahead of Summit

In the run-up to this month's U.S.-Russian summit, prominent political analysts on Monday urged the two nations' presidents to overcome the recent cold spell in relations by setting up joint military bases, pooling efforts to build missile defenses and making joint pre-emptive strikes on terrorists.

A letter signed by more than 70 scholars from Russia, the United States and other nations called on U.S. President George W. Bush and President Vladimir Putin to "make unmistakably clear that the relationship will go forward" when they meet Feb. 24 in Bratislava, Slovakia.

The letter's authors pointed at growing tensions in bilateral relations, saying that the leader's "broader vision and understanding of the extraordinary importance of U.S.-Russia security cooperation has greatly surpassed that of your political elites, state bureaucrats and the world media."

They said that joint security initiatives, such as the establishment of joint military bases, were needed to boost ties.

"Such bases could help remove Russia's concerns about being surrounded by military bases, and bolster mutual trust and partnership," said Edward Lozansky, the head of the American University in Moscow, who was among the initiators of the letter.

In a dramatic rupture with Cold War-style zero-sum games, Putin backed the U.S. military deployment in what was formerly Soviet Central Asia for operations in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. That support greatly bolstered the relationship between the two leaders. But ties soured over Russia's opposition to the U.S. war in Iraq, and cooled further amid American concerns over Putin's domestic policy, the crackdown on Yukos and, most recently, Russian involvement in Ukraine's presidential election. Many Russians, in turn, have seen NATO's expansion into Eastern Europe and the deployment of U.S. troops in formerly Soviet Central Asian nations and Georgia as a threat to Moscow's security interests.

Gleb Pavlovsky, a Kremlin-connected political analyst, suggested that the United States and Russia could set up joint bases in the Baltics and Central Asia to help curb drug production and trafficking from Afghanistan.

Lozansky said that one possible location for a joint base could be Kyrgyzstan, where both the United States and Russia have deployed air bases just 30 kilometers away from one another. "It would be more reasonable to have one base there under joint command," he said.

He said Russia and the United States could also conduct joint strikes on terrorists suspected of preparing terror attacks. Another author of the letter, Sergei Markov, said Moscow and Washington could hold quick consultations with other permanent members of the United Nations' Security Council to get their approval for such strikes.

The letter also called on Washington to engage Moscow in developing a missile defense system and suggested that some of its components could be deployed on Russian territory.

A senior U.S. diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States was not discussing joint bases or preventive strikes with Russia. The diplomat said the United States has been seeking to engage Russia on missile defense for years, but indicated there's been little progress.