Dear President Putin:
Let us not pretend (as did my predecessor) that you are our "strategic partner," or that we are members of the same club, sharing the same values, or that we can be your ideological tutors or financial sponsors, who will guide you on the way to democracy. We should clearly, if belatedly, understand that this is not America's place or mission.
On the other hand, my administration does not regard you as an adversary. The Cold War ended in 1991. We are eager to develop a pragmatic, fair and businesslike relationship with Russia as a proud, powerful, independent nation on the world scene.
However, if our two nations are to develop a relationship among equals on strategic issues, I need a sense of clear vision from you. By clear vision, I mean that:
a) You rethink the myth, which has been stated as policy, that a limited American National Missile Defense (NMD) project could jeopardize Russia's strategic deterrent capabilities. This unwarranted position has been packaged with the canard that Ballistic Missile Defense is a sinister plot to deprive Russia of its last vestige as a superpower. Your military experts know perfectly well that these charges are at best untrue.
b) If you wish to overcome this artificial issue, I invite you to propose a modification of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. A mutually agreed-upon modification would impose restrictions on our ability to develop a system capable of countering Russian nuclear capability. Please take a pen and a sheet of paper and write your restrictions on our system into the treaty.
c) After the air is cleared of propaganda and posturing, I propose that we have a serious dialogue about strategic issues. My administration is committed to an immediate review of the United States' strategic posture from the bottom up. One goal will be the reduction of our nuclear warheads to the minimum level required to meet our security needs. I am informed that this corresponds to your proposal of scaling down our nuclear arsenals to no more than 1,500 warheads each.
d) As a practical business consideration and to demonstrate our good faith, my administration is ready to invite your defense industry to participate in the development of our NMD system and regional ABM systems, including a European one.
e) A discussion among equals in matters of nuclear power has no place for the "bogeyman" of a European ABM system as "an active operation" to undermine our NMD project. This smacks of a clumsy and futile effort to create a split between Europe and the United States.
f) A strategic discussion would necessarily include the disturbing proposals for, and evidence of the sale of, Russian technologies with nuclear value to the present Iranian government. This government, as we both know, openly sponsors the most radical of Islamic extremists against whom you have repeatedly claimed to be a "bastion protecting Western civilization." This contradiction would make serious discussions and policy formulation awkward. The recent dismissal of your agreement with my predecessor on conventional arms sales issues is also disturbing.
g) You have often declared that Russian foreign policy is primarily driven by commercial interests. However, my advisors suggest to me that there is an equal Russian propensity toward anti-American positions that have little to do with discernible Russian interests. Our discussions must address this divergence. (One example is the continuing Russian challenge to United States-backed sanctions against Iraq. It is clear that the day these sanctions are lifted, and Iraqi oil flows onto the world markets, it will severely damage your economy. We need to establish why you seem ready to pay such an economic price to create problems for the United States?)
h) Russia's arms sales to Iran seem worthy of a fruitful and serious discussion. Some of these sales may be purely commercial, and do not present threats to our security interests. However some sales provoke serious concerns for regional stability. I would propose to discuss with you an agreement of both a commercial and political nature. If Russians were to refrain from sales that threaten to damage U.S. interests and those of our friends, we are ready to discuss as an alternative: U.S. orders from your defense and space industries as compensation for potential loss of business to Iran. If our rational interests govern us, we may be able to find solutions answering both our security concerns and your commercial interests.
i) We clearly need to discuss proposed Russian strategic alliances with China or other growing nuclear powers to offset the United States. These arrangements are vaguely directed against a "unipolar problem," whose definition is clear.
j) I would like to suggest that we also discuss the extent to which such an alliance could be skillfully exploited by the Chinese and could entail your subordination to China, resulting in probable threats to Russia's Far East and Siberia. This potentially disastrous scenario doesn't fit our strategic interests in the Northeast Asia region. We would prefer to live with a strong, economically prosperous Russia within its current borders. (By these remarks, I am not suggesting alliance or the imposition of any kind of leadership. I just wish to draw your attention to the fact that we have common strategic interests in the Northeast Asian region that provides a long-term basis for our cooperation.)
k) I strongly suggest that gratuitous anti-American posturing will bring less benefit to Russia than what I would hope we might agree upon in the course of serious strategic discussions. The alternative to what I propose would seem to be aimless propaganda to the effect that the "Kursk" collided with a U.S. submarine, or that the Kosovo operation was a rehearsal for NATO aggression against Russia, and so on. Maybe you need such diversions for internal political consumption. But the problem with these false tales is that after they have been repeated hundreds of times, you and your advisors may begin to believe in them, leading to a fatefully distorted perception of the real world.
President Putin, during the first 100 days of my administration, I will set a high priority on a serious attempt to devise a strategic relationship with Russia, which addresses Russia's realistic strategic interests, even as we formulate our own. The choice, which will be between mutual respect, cooperation at various levels and trade between Russia and the United States on one hand, and ad hoc policies of resentment and regional destabilization on the other, will rest with you. I am determined to define a clear and constructive post-Cold War strategy for the United States, which is both in the interests of our national security and trade, while defining and respecting the interests and earning the friendship of our potential colleagues in a world grown more diverse. I look forward to your response.
George W. Bush.