Foreign Minister Lavrov with Secretary of State Rice today
RIA Novosti reports today that "U.S. President George W. Bush has taken under his personal control the completion of Russia-U.S. talks on the former's accession to the WTO, the Russian foreign minister said Tuesday." Without getting too much into the nitty gritty of what's happening in foreign policy circles in D.C., it seems Bush is sticking with his first term agenda of cementing closer relations with China's most important neighbors, Russia and India. While the U.S. is much closer to a full alliance with India than it is with Russia, Bush clearly has his eye on the big picture that will persist long after he has left the White House.
Clearly what is happening behind close doors with U.S.-Russia talks is far more important than any public sparring between Dr. Rice and Foreign Minister Lavrov. If China can be admitted to the WTO, why not Russia? It isn't as if software and music piracy is less of a problem in Shanghai than in St. Petersburg, and there is unquestionably more freedom of dissent in Russia today than in China. Even if they wanted to, the Russian authorities could not afford to buy all the tech support they need to monitor Internet dissenters like their Chinese counterparts.
The U.S. needs all the new allies it can find in the war on terrorism. A weaker Russia poses more dangers to American interests than a strong Russia capable of defending itself from our common enemies. This is the premise underlying our posts on U.S.-Russia relations.
UPDATE: George Friedman of Austin, TX's Strategic Forecasting Inc. (better known as Stratfor) sees an emerging U.S.-Indo-Russian "axis" to check China's rising power.
While I think the Indo-American alliance is definitely here, it is premature to speak of an alliance between the U.S. and Russia. While the two countries have common terrorist enemies and common strategic interests (especially in developing energy resources outside the Middle East) Russia is still weak and will need many years of good governance and cultural revival to become a strong partner to the U.S.