President Bush will do more in Crawford, Texas, today than show Russian President Vladimir Putin around the ranch house.

He'll push hard on missile defense to protect us against hard-core terrorists.

After all, should stone-age barbarians get their grimy hands on modern weaponry, the sad date of Sept. 11 will be overshadowed by worse ones. Just last week, Usama bin Laden boasted in an interview that his terrorist network already has nuclear and chemical weapons.

To alter an ancient Arab adage: From his lips to the devil's ears. Or, as we'd say: God forbid.

But it is we who must forbid. And doing so involves two steps. First, we must eliminate international terrorist networks and do what we can to prevent weapons of mass destruction from getting into evil hands. To do so most effectively, we must eliminate governments that either support terrorist networks or encourage and permit them to thrive. The recent military successes will help make Afghanistan's government the first to go. We should swiftly follow with Iraq, Sudan and others engaged in such barbaric practices.

Meanwhile, we must protect civilization. Hence the need for missile defense: The ultimate insurance against a terrorist who gets hold of ballistic missiles and tops them with a weapon of mass destruction. Bush must draw upon his persuasive powers to convince Putin to join us in the research and then deployment of a missile defense system.

And Bush may find that his cowboy boots are kicking an open door. Putin may be receptive to work cooperatively on missile defense. Nearly 20 years after President Reagan stunned the world — and all of us advisors to him then — by offering to "share" the Strategic Defense Initiative with the Russians, a cooperative missile defense is a genuine possibility.

Why has this become possible? Because of impressive traits of the two men in Crawford. Contrary to sweeping theories like Marxism or economic determinism, it is leaders who shape events, not abstract "trends" or "conditions." Individual men and women can turn history.

On the one hand there is Bush who has shown remarkable persistence. When many, if not most, resisted his opposing the economically disastrous (but fashionable) Kyoto Treaty, he stuck to his views. When the sophisticates mocked his clinging to missile defense, he likewise hung tough. That Bush doggedness must now pay off in Crawford.

On the other is Putin who is tough and wiry, befitting a careerist in the KGB. But unlike most of his ex-KGB comrades, he's not ideological or resistant to change. To the contrary, he's open to pushing Russia, albeit kicking and screaming, into new realities. The biggest being that its future — if Russia is to have a favorable future — is with Western technology, assistance and our democratic capitalistic system.

Hence all the talk that greater Russian ties with China or the former Soviet states won't make life better or safer for Russians. That comes only from greater ties to America and our allies in Europe and Asia.

Moreover, Putin knows that the Russians never adored the ABM treaty enough to abide by it. After all, former Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze — a colleague of Putin's and now president of Georgia — stunned Reagan and those of us with him in a 1986 White House luncheon, when he admitted that the Soviets had been violating the ABM treaty for years. Many Russians have cherished the ABM treaty only because the United States has abided by it.

But with our help — or better yet, with cooperation between us — the U.S. and Russia can build a system to protect ourselves against the deadliest assault possible by the terrorists and madmen out to ruin civilization.

So watch for the strange phenomenon to follow the Crawford summit. Look for Russia to become more supportive of missile defense than The New York Times editorial page or most Democrats in Congress. After the Crawford hoedown, the Texas rancher may aptly leave his Russia counterpart with the traditional Western, "See ya' … partner."

Kenneth Adelman is a frequent guest commentator on Fox News, was assistant to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from 1975 to 1977 and, under President Ronald Reagan, U.N. ambassador and arms-control director. Mr. Adelman is now co-host of TechCentralStation.com.

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