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Comment: Friend, or foe?
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17:14, July 18, 2007

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The missile defense system has recently turned out a nettlesome question troubling the Russian-U.S. relations. At the "lobster summit" not long ago with President George W. Bush, Russian President Vladimir Putin not only mentioned again to share with Washington the Gabala radar that Russia leases from Azerbaijan, but suggested that the U.S. uses the Armavir radar station in southern Russia.

Putin's proposal looks more rational if it comes to serve the so-called U.S. anti-missile logic to "contain Iran". More important is, by doing so Putin completed a vital switch of concept: from "you" to "we" -- since "you" (the U.S. and "new Europe") claimed that NMD deployment in eastern Europe doesn't target Russia, why not let "we" guard against "threat from Iran" together at more advantageous locations? Whether or not the "threat from Iran" really exists, Putin ruthlessly forced Washington to take side by cutting his own way back: for you, the United States, is Russia "we" or "you", after all?

Relations between the two countries have been at high and low ebbs for more than a decade following the end of the Cold War. In recent years, as Russia gradually recovered its national strength, the U.S. and Europe again looked at Moscow in a doubtful and fearful eye and accused Putin of "dictatorship at home" and "new imperialism at abroad". The U.S. provocation on NMD deployment in eastern Europe and the Russian show-down in an equally aggressive manner has laid both nations bare before the classic question: are we friends, or foes, to each other?

At present, although Washington said it would not give up the NMD in eastern Europe, it didn't give a definite reply to Russian proposal. On the other hand, Russia claimed that if the U.S. accepts its "innovative suggestion" the relations might have a substantial turn and the look of international relations would be fundamentally changed. Indeed, if Washington and Moscow really join hands to build a missile-defense system, its target would be more meaningful and the ties would enter a new stage. Sources say discussions on a joint defense system in Europe will be held between the two sides between September and October.

U.S. strategist Henry Kissinger said recently: the international system is undergoing a time of change not seen in hundreds of years, and we are at a beginning stage of a long period of adjustment. After the end of the Cold War, it is not only Russia in the international system that is facing the questions of identity and path choosing, but many nations also have before them new choices regarding ideology, development road and diplomatic strategy. There is a new round of reshuffle in the world pattern. Who is friend and who is foe -- this will not only affect the world situation but decide the destiny of oneself.

By People's Daily Online</I>

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