Russia's response to the September 11 terror attacks have helped improve relations with the United States in ways that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. That assessment from Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is praising steps Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken, steps which have brought the former Cold War enemy closer to the United States than ever before.
Vladimir Putin was the first world leader to call President Bush in the minutes after last month's terrorist strikes. Since then, the Russian government has taken a number of pro-Western steps that have prompted Secretary of State Powell to marvel at what he has called the end of the post cold war period.
"We have seen Russia do things in the last six weeks that would have been unthought of five or six years ago, even long after the Soviet Union was gone. We're working with Russia to take advantage of these new opportunities.
He told a Senate panel Thursday they include a softening in Moscow's longstanding opposition to NATO expansion, a point he has raised in conversations with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov as proof that Moscow now realizes its future lies with the West.
"But as I like to say to him, you know we added three members about four years ago and you have better relations with those three new members than you have had with them before when they were part of the Warsaw Pact," he said.
Moscow has also indicated a willingness to agree to a new strategic framework that would allow the United States to move ahead with deploying a national missile defense without having to break the longstanding ABM treaty.
Secretary Powell also told Congress that six weeks after the terror attacks, he believes the U.S. led military campaign is gaining strength. Every nation on earth, he says except for about three or four countries has signed up for the coalition against terrorism.