Sept. 17, 2004: Advice for Russia

— When U.S. officials mildly suggested they are concerned by Russia's pullback from some of its democratic reforms, when some Western leaders timidly propose that perhaps President Putin might consider negotiating with the Chechen rebels who are responsible for the atrocities of this past month, Putin doesn't mince words.

"Why don't you meet bin Laden?" he asks. "You find it possible to set some limits in your dealings with these bastards, so why should we talk to people who are child killers?"

In that, in their approach to dealing with terrorists, Presidents Putin and Bush appear to be of one mind: no deals.

And in the wake of 9/11 and the horrors of the Beslan school siege, that has a visceral, almost irresistible appeal. But when, after the next terrorist attack here on the American homeland, someone proposes eliminating a few of our own democratic safeguards in the name of fighting terrorism, let's remember our advice to President Putin: It's a bad move in Russia. It would be even worse here at home.

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