President George W. Bush will have to tread carefully in expressing any concerns about Russia's commitment to democracy during his 24-hour visit to Moscow on Sunday, to avoid ruffling the feathers of his hosts and of many ordinary Russians. Moscow is preparing for one of its biggest moments on the world stage since the &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/mailbox/ 22/101/399/15097_olympics.html ' target=_blank>1980 Olympics.
Mr Bush's decision to add visits to Georgia and the Baltic states to his itinerary, rather than make Russia the centrepiece of his European visit, has already been characterised as a diplomatic snub - even in newspapers critical of the Kremlin. However they feel about Vladimir Putin himself - and opinion polls show the president's popularity remains high - many Russians are suspicious of US motives in stepping up its rhetoric over Mr Putin's growing centralisation of power. Suspicions have been fuelled by what many see as US-backed revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia. Many Russians view these events not as democratic liberation but as foreign interference in their "near abroad", informs FT News.
According to ABC News, five days before President Bush meets &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/main/2002/11/05/39169.html ' target=_blank>Vladimir Putin in Moscow, the White House urged Russia to renounce the Soviet Union's decades-long domination of Eastern Europe to ease tensions with once-occupied countries.
The suggestion was made Wednesday by Stephen Hadley, the White House national security adviser, as Bush prepared to leave Friday on a four-nation European trip centered on celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany. The main event will be Monday when Bush joins Putin and more than 50 world leaders at a military parade in Red Square. It is a delicate assignment for Bush. He will pay tribute to Russia's tremendous sacrifice 27 million soldiers and civilians killed and at the same time reach out to nations that fell under Moscow's heel.
The president will open the trip in Riga, Latvia, where he will meet on Saturday with the leaders of Baltic nations that were occupied for nearly five decades. The leaders of Lithuania and Estonia have refused to attend the Moscow ceremony, because of Russia's unwillingness to denounce the Soviet annexation of their countries.