Russia Relations with the USA
After the attacks on the Towers, the Russian president immediately assured George W. Bush of his solidarity. He understood that America would need his help and that the US battle against Islamic fundamentalism would legitimize, in retrospect, the harshness with which Putin himself had treated the Chechen question. Russia, from now on, could have argued that the brutality of the conflict was justified by the need to defeat an insidious and fanatical enemy, intellectually and financially fueled by the Taliban regime of Afghanistan, that is to say by the state in which Osama bin Laden he had created training centers for his militias. And America, delighted to have Russia at its side,
For a few months, the facts confirmed Putin’s predictions and hopes. As soon as they decided to make war on the Kabul regime, the Americans asked Russia to use its airspace and obtained, with the approval and good offices of Moscow, the collaboration of two former Soviet Central Asian republics bordering Afghanistan.: Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. In the following weeks, after the invasion, Russia took advantage of the new circumstances to set foot in Kabul and other cities in the country with some diplomatic missions: little compared to what the USSR had tried to do in December 1979, but still something after the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan ten years later. The greatest benefits, however, were realized in the summer of 2002, when Putin met Bush in Texas and apparently achieved what no other Russian statesman had: the transformation of NATO into a collective security organization on the European continent. The concession became official at the Pratica di Mare Summit in July 2002. The old Cold War military alliance was transformed from that moment into a kind of two-headed eagle. Of its two heads, one would be the old Atlantic Council, with its military organization, the other a NATO-Russia committee in which the old adversary would have the same status as the other members and would participate with them in the fight against common dangers, including terrorism. It seemed to me that this duplicity would sooner or later create functions that were difficult to match. But Putin, at that moment, he could argue that his solidarity with America after 9/11 had allowed him to enter the old ‘house of the enemy’ with a permanent seat. For a president whom the Russian nationalists and Communists reproached for a yielding and renounced policy, it was undoubtedly a political success. The political advantages were joined by economic advantages. The underground war between the Russians and the Americans over the route of the oil pipelines that would have had to transport the Caspian oil to the west seemed to subside. And the financial markets began to register a greater interest of American capital in the renewal of the old Soviet oil network, now in poor condition.
The situation changed a few months later when the United States made it clear that the war against Afghanistan was just the dress rehearsal of a much more important military operation against Iraq. That was the moment when Russian-American solidarity began to turn into open dissent. Putin had two good reasons for being against the US policy against Saddam Hussein. In the first place, the American conquest of Iraq would have made the United States the hegemonic power of the Middle East. And secondly, Russia would lose, in addition to any political influence in the region, the result of the good relations it had established, especially in the field of oil, with the Baghdad government. In the months preceding the start of military operations, Russia, therefore, he used his permanent seat on the Security Council to thwart Iraqi designs for the American presidency. A front was formed consisting of France, Germany and Russia, but it was a temporary alliance, dictated by contingent considerations. By opposing American policy in Iraq, Russia tried not to lose the political capital that the Soviet Union had patiently accumulated in the region especially after the nationalization of the Suez Canal, the Algerian War and the decline of Anglo-French hegemony in Middle East. The affair had the effect of demonstrating that Russia and America remained competing powers in some areas, despite the end of the Cold War.
Evidence of this has been found in Georgia and Central Asia. When the Americans sent eight hundred men to Georgia to train local troops “against terrorist infiltration from the North” and hinted that they had no intention of closing the military installations created in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan for the needs of the Afghan war, the Russians they realized that they had opened the southern doors of their home to the United States. The Americans, for their part, began to criticize Russia for its brutal Chechen policy. The honeymoon, which began after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, was over. The Russians and the Americans had collaborated in Afghanistan because the elimination of the Taliban was in the interests of both.