Pulling No Punches

George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin, Russia's president, shake hands in Saint Petersburg, Russia AP

Commentary by Early Show Co-Anchor Harry Smith

President George W. Bush has pulled no punches with Vladimir Putin and the Russians. Saying, "Keep your hands off the Balkans, and get with it, with this democracy thing," to which the Russian president says Americans shouldn't be preaching to him about democracy: "After all, your 2000 election was decided by a court."

You heard it right. That's what Putin told "60 Minutes."

So when the president shows up in Moscow, we're all ready for what? Icy stares and cold shoulders? Not quite. Instead, we get hugs and kisses and photo ops in Putin's 1956 Volga. Go figure.

President Bush is often portrayed by the foreign press as a cowboy brandishing power and shooting from the hip. He sure hasn't backed down from Putin.

Putin, the former KGB man, is no real fan of unbridled freedom. Take the recent election in the Ukraine. You know, the one where the secret police poisoned opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko. Putin says the peacefully installed Yushchenko government is illegal, which means his guys didn't win. That's part of why Putin's been getting an earful from President Bush.

Do the harsh words work? It's hard to say. Real cowboys know unruly horses often just need a good tough tug on the reins. Let 'em taste the bit as we used to say out west. Some horses though, just wont respond to that. No how, no way. They need to be whispered to. Convinced that behaving right is their idea. Which one is Putin? Let's hope this cowboy's got it right.

  • Jaime Holguin

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