San Diego Union-Tribune

November 15, 2001

Putin gets relaxed rancher welcome

By GEORGE E. CONDON JR. 
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE 

CRAWFORD, Texas -- In a down-home, cowboy-style display of
U.S.-Russian good will, President Bush showed off his Texas
ranch to the president of Russia yesterday as the two leaders'
summit moved westward.

There, amid stands of oak, pecan and hackberry trees on the
rolling limestone hills astride the Middle Bosque River, Bush and
Vladimir Putin continued their talks on strategic weapons and
the war against terrorism.

Before arriving in Crawford, Putin used a speech at Rice
University in Houston to denounce the "Cold War stereotypes"
that he said complicate attempts to move U.S.-Russian relations
to the next level.

Some of the stereotypes were shattered when the former KGB
agent and his wife, Lyudmila, were greeted warmly by their
hosts. Gone were the tension and formality of many past
summits.

Gone even was the familiar presidential limousine with its Secret
Service agent driver. Instead, Bush himself, wearing work boots
and faded bluejeans, was behind the wheel of a white pickup,
boasting, "I still know how to drive."

The main goal of this part of the summit was cementing the warm
personal relationship of the two leaders, who have met four
times in the last five months. Not even the sudden burst of heavy
rain was permitted to dampen the mood or the chuck-wagon
food waiting at the ranch.

The food, dress and atmosphere were casual, but even in the
most relaxed setting of any meeting in the five-decade history of
superpower summitry, fundamental differences remained.

At the top of that list is the U.S. desire to build missile-defense
systems prohibited by the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

Despite earlier hopes for a compromise with Putin, an ardent
supporter of the treaty, the second day of talks between the two
presidents ended with no sign of a breakthrough.

Little was announced by either side. But aides tried to lower
expectations for any announcement before Putin leaves the
ranch today.

"Don't look for anything of that nature," said White House press
secretary Ari Fleischer. "This is one stop along the road. We'll
make other stops after Crawford, but each stop is built on the
positive results of the earlier meetings."

This particular meeting was unlike any previous summit
between an American president and a Kremlin leader,
underscoring the now-friendly relations between the two Cold
War rivals. It also shone an international spotlight on a small
stretch of plains little known before being picked as a homestead
by Bush.

Crawford, a 134-year-old town 23 miles southwest of Waco, has
five churches, two gas stations and one barber. This week, it
suddenly has dozens of diplomats, hundreds of reporters and
thousands of security officials.

The focus of all this attention is the 1,550-acre Prairie Chapel
Ranch, bought by the Bushes for an estimated $1.3 million in
1999. The president has described it as his "little slice of heaven,"
and before Sept. 11 he returned at every opportunity.

This is the first time Bush has used his ranch to entertain a
foreign leader, and he seemed eager to show it off to Putin. The
ranch has a rocky, 100-foot-deep canyon lining Rainey Creek; a
man-made, 9-acre fishing lake; groves of trees; and numerous
cattle and deer mixing with an occasional coyote.

The use of the ranch for a summit is unprecedented in
U.S.-Russian relations -- unless you count the time a KGB colonel
showed up uninvited at President Johnson's ranch on the
Pedernales River and got a personal tour from LBJ.

For Putin and his wife, the Bushes pulled out all the stops --
including having the president's father, former President Bush,
introduce Putin at Rice University.

In his speech at the university, Putin said the terrorist attacks of
Sept. 11 helped demonstrate even to skeptics that "Russia and
the United States need each other."

"Those events gave us a chance to make our bilateral ties
long-term and truly friendly," he said, adding that trust of the
kind built up by summits is critical now.

"People in our two countries have not yet completely gotten rid
of the Cold War stereotypes . . . and those stereotypes have been
compounded by the experience of the past decade that has not
always been positive," Putin said.

Because of that, he said, people in both countries want one thing
from this summit.

"They expect for us to find a common language on the issues that
millions of people in Russia, in the United States and throughout
the world expect us to resolve," Putin said. "They expect that
politicians in Russia and in America leave behind double
standards, unnecessary suspicions and ulterior motives."

To help build trust, the Bushes tried to show their guests some
classic Lone Star State hospitality, including music from the
Ranch Hands Band from Austin and a menu that screamed
Texas.

The Putins were treated to guacamole salad, mesquite-smoked
beef tenderloin, Southern-fried catfish, grilled sourdough bread,
pecan pie and Blue Bell vanilla ice cream -- all accompanied by
Texas wine.

Among the guests was Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov,
who fleshed out some of the Russian thinking after Tuesday's
summit talks in Washington, which ended with the historic
announcement of two-thirds cuts in the nuclear stockpiles of
both countries.

At the White House, Bush had downplayed the need to lock in
that agreement with any formal signing of a document. But
Ivanov said yesterday that Russia still would prefer a treaty.

"To make it more reliable, we need to put it down in a treaty," he
said. "It doesn't mean we distrust anyone. Just the opposite. It
would consolidate and boost our relations."

Ivanov also downplayed the impasse on missile defense,
suggesting the problems could be addressed in post-Crawford
negotiations once the Kremlin knows what tests the United
States wants to conduct in possible violation of the ABM Treaty.

"Let's look together at what tests you need," Ivanov said. "If such
tests don't violate the treaty, why discard it? We don't think that
the ABM Treaty is outdated."