Some feuds forgotten after terrorist attacks

Posted: Sunday, October 21, 2001

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Sept. 11 attacks produced a seismic shift in the earth's political geography, nudging the United States ever closer to old adversaries like China and Russia to win their help for the war against terrorism.

The reordered landscape was clear in Shanghai on Friday as President Bush and Chinese President Jiang Zemin proclaimed themselves united by a common enemy.

A similar note of harmony in the struggle against international terrorism was expected at a Sunday session between Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

''Not only is the Cold War over, the post-Cold War period is also over,'' declared Secretary of State Colin Powell, in China with Bush for a 21-nation Asia-Pacific economic conference. ''And I think at this time of anxiety, we should see the promise that is before us.''

It was not clear how long the new warmth would last, however. Even as Bush and Jiang pronounced themselves side-by-side against terrorism, there were some mutual digs.

Bush said the war on terrorism ''must never be an excuse to persecute minorities,'' apparently alluding to China's crackdown on Muslim separatists in China's far-western Xinjiang region. And Jiang cautioned that the U.S. air war in Afghanistan must be aimed at clearly defined targets to avoid civilian casualties.

Even so, China has already shared intelligence with the United States in the effort to root out terrorists and condoned U.S. air strikes against one of its neighbors. Its leaders have sought to diminish long-standing U.S.-Chinese differences.

Russia, too, has given its strong support to the U.S.-led effort to hunt down Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida followers.

Putin has offered air corridors to the United States and has provided information on Afghanistan's web of caves and mountain tunnels dating back to the botched Soviet war there. Moscow has also delivered weapons to the anti-Taliban northern alliance and helped the United States gain a footing in the Muslim former Soviet republics that border Afghanistan to the north.

Furthermore, U.S. and Russian officials have been talking about what should happen in Afghanistan once the Taliban is toppled.

Only months ago, such cooperation with Moscow and Beijing might have seemed impossible.

In early 2001, China and the United States were locked in a standoff over the collision of a U.S. surveillance plane and a Chinese fighter jet over the South China Sea. The United States and Russia were quarreling over a spy scandal, Russian military action in Chechyna and its arms sales to Iran.

President Bush's insistence on a U.S. missile defense was raising alarms in both Beijing and Moscow.

But that was then.

''President Jiang and the government stand side by side with the American people as we fight this evil force,'' Bush said Friday after meeting his Chinese counterpart.

Previewing the upcoming meeting with Putin, Powell praised Russia for deciding to abandon a Soviet-era listening station in Cuba and a naval base in Vietnam. ''As part of the new strategic opportunity, there's a new strategic opportunity to work with Russia,'' he said.

There were even hints that Russia and the United States might soon reach agreement on two major areas of friction: U.S. plans for a missile defense and Russia's objections to expansion of NATO into former Soviet territory. Bush and Putin meet again next month at Bush's ranch in Texas.

''The conventional wisdom prior to Sept. 11 was that we had two big problems on our horizon: mischief-making from Russia and the potential for a major power rivalry with China,'' said Kurt Campbell, a senior analyst with the Center for International and Strategic Studies. ''The tragedy of Sept. 11 has opened the possibility of a major realignment of relations with Russia and China.''

Still, Campbell added, ''There will be limits to this cooperation, as China and Russia still have strongly held convictions and concerns about many manifestations of American power.''

For instance, frictions between the United States over Taiwan and Tibet seem likely to remain, Campbell said.

''It will take until next year until we know how much the world has changed,'' cautioned Michael O'Hanlon, a foreign policy specialist at the Brookings Institution. ''Everyone knows it's not good form to be picking fights with the United States right now, even if those fights remain below the surface.''

''That said, obviously there is some real recognition that we have some common interest in fighting terrorism,'' O'Hanlon said.

Tom Raum has covered national and international affairs for The Associated Press since 1973.

Subscribe to Peninsula Clarion

Trending this week:


© 2018. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us