Bush and Putin at G8

I’ve just watched the press conference held by Presidents Bush and Putin in St. Petersburg at the G8 summit. Bush is a bit jet-lagged, you could tell this was not his time of the day, however he clearly came off as the stronger leader. He was clear on the US positions on trade, the Israeli conflict, Iranian nuclear ambitions, and accession of Russia to the WTO.

Compare the responses below:

Bush said: “In my judgment, the best way to stop the violence is to understand why the violence occurred in the first place,” Bush said. “And that’s because Hezbollah has been launching rocket attacks out of Lebanon into Israel and because Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers.

“The best way to stop the violence is for Hezbollah to lay down its arms and to stop attacking,” Bush said. “And therefore, I call on Syria to exert influence over Hezbollah.”

Putin said it was unacceptable to try to reach political goals through abductions and strikes against an independent state. “In this context we consider Israel’s concerns to be justified,” he said. He also said, “the use of force should be balanced.”

Putin said a lot of words, but mostly was non-committal and political, never concise and clear. At one time he even drifted into Islamofascist-speak, saying something to the effect that “Russia did not agree with Crusader-type intervention” in the mid east. Crusader is a red-flag word to the nations in the Islamic world, and to my view puts a bad characterization out there.

The good news is that Putin did mostly agree with Bush on substance, if not fully on approach. When Bush stated that Hezbollah was responsible for the violence, Putin agreed. When Bush stated that Syria and Iran needed to exert their influence to stop the violence Putin also agreed. When Bush stated clearly that both Korea and Iran should not have nuclear weapons and missles, Putin agreed. President Bush characterized the six nations negotiating with both Korea and Iran as in agreement, and that the only differences were on semantics and language. Again the head-nod from Putin.

The moment of humor from the joint press conference came when President Putin jested about collusion between reporters from Russia and America when a Russian reporter tagged a tough follow-up question after the US reporter received answers.

Bush did lay out a challenge to Putin in front of the combined press Corps, and Putin gave a politician’s reply, and then ended questions. Bush hinted that they had talked about Land-reform in Russia. Putin did not raise to the bait in his half of the joint answer.  Land reform is key to Russia progressing to a full capitalistic state. You can’t have full freedom nor full capitalism without clear property rights, both intellectual and material, and it appears there is not full agreement on that from Putin.

 All in all, it was a tour de force for Bush, for freedom, and for the US – We clearly came off as the principled nation.

 Here is Forbes Magazine on the failure of agreement on Russia joining the WTO:

SAINT PETERSBURG (AFX) – Russia and the US have failed to reach agreement on Russian entry to the WTO, Interfax news agency said, quoting Russia’s top negotiator.

Russia needed an agreement with the US to secure entry to the international trade body and had hoped to secure this before the start of the G8 summit later today.

Talks between the two countries had been foundering on US concerns over protection of intellectual property in Russia, particularly in the DVD and software market, as well as tariffs on aircraft imports.

But the US had dropped a demand that Russia allow foreign banks to open branches — rather than legally-registered Russian subsidiaries — on its territory. In exchange, Moscow lowered barriers to foreign operators in its insurance market

Here is the proposed nuclear deal that Bush and Putin announced at the G8 from Reuters:

ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) – The United States and Russia announced on Saturday a plan to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons by setting up international enrichment centres as their leaders sought to give a boost to a big-power summit.

President Bush and Russia’s Vladimir Putin unveiled the initiative at a news conference after talks ahead of a Group of Eight summit that starts in earnest on Sunday.

The two leaders, striving to show a united front in tackling global problems after a sudden fall-off in U.S.-Russian relations, also blamed the upsurge in Middle East violence squarely on Lebanon-based Hizbollah guerrillas.

Also, from Gates of Vienna here is more from Bolton’s UN Speech, as well as criticism of Pope Benedict (Ratzinger).