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Putin to Meet Bush as Ties Warm - 2001-11-11

Russian President Vladimir Putin is preparing for a series of meetings with President George W. Bush in Washington. The two leaders meet amid a noticeable warming in relations between their countries.

In the lead-up to the Russian-American summit, there is a mood of optimism that Washington and Moscow can find common ground on a number of issues, especially security.

The Russian leader says he is confident the two sides can work out a compromise on the Bush administration plan to build an anti-missile shield, which Russia has long opposed.

Reports in Moscow indicate that the United States may push ahead with tests of the defensive shield in return for making deep cuts in the nuclear arsenals of the two countries.

Mr. Putin has been seeking to reduce those levels to about 2,000 warheads. Both countries have more than 6,000 long-range nuclear weapons in their stockpiles.

The two presidents say that deep cuts are likely to be made in the their nuclear arsenals.

They will also discuss the fight against terrorism, the issue that has brought them closer together.

The Russian leader strongly supports the U.S.-led coalition that has been bombing military targets in Afghanistan. He has opened Russian airspace and is sending aid to the anti-Taleban fighters of the Northern Alliance.

But Mr. Putin's bold stand comes with a price. There is opposition to his policies within Russia's powerful military-industrial complex.

Some senior military and political leaders are shocked to see American troops stationed in the former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan.

Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov has openly broken with Mr. Putin over the issue. In an open letter published last week, Mr. Zyuganov accused the Russian president of weakening Russia's strategic interests by making deals with the West. He also warned that Mr. Putin might "betray Russia's national interests" at the summit with Mr. Bush.

Despite this, opinion polls consistently show that Mr. Putin enjoys popular support. Most Russians also express strong reservations about the war in Afghanistan.

Memories are still fresh of the long, bloody Soviet intervention in Afghanistan during the 1980s. And many Russians are concerned about possible terrorist attacks directed against them.