When President Vladimir Putin picked up the phone to express his sympathy to President George W. Bush in the aftermath of September 11, and then followed-up by providing concrete assistance to the campaign in Afghanistan and quickly acquiescing to U.S. plans to establish bases in Central Asia, Washington policymakers and analysts reasonably concluded Putin had made a strategic, even historic, choice to align Russia’s foreign policy with that of the U.S.
From the beginning of his presidency in January 2000, Putin pushed the idea of a concerted campaign against terrorism with U.S. and European leaders. He was one of the first to raise the alarm about terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, and to warn of linkages between these camps, well-financed terrorist networks, and Islamic militant groups operating in Europe and Eurasia. Russia also actively supported the Northern Alliance in its struggle with the Taliban in Afghanistan. In December 2000, Moscow joined Washington in supporting United Nations sanctions against the Taliban, and later appealed for additional sanctions against Pakistan for aiding the Taliban. After the attacks on the United States, Putin even went so far as to suggest he had been expecting a massive terrorist strike––it had only been a matter of time. The events of September 11 were a shock, but not a surprise. Putin’s support for Bush was, therefore, entirely consistent with his efforts to draw world attention to the terrorist threat. […]