- Former US President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin briefly bonded in 2001.
- They held a summit in a rural Texas town of 705 people where Bush owns a nearby ranch.
- Putin and his wife stayed at the ranch, and later, the two presidents took questions from local students.
Two months after the September 11 attacks, Russian President Vladimir Putin joined former US President George W. Bush in a rural Texan town of 700 people, where Bush owns the nearby Prairie Chapel ranch. The two leaders also spoke at a high school, after winding down at the ranch, according to NPR.
The now-unimaginable meeting took place in Crawford, Texas, on November 15, 2001, and was billed as the Crawford Summit, with both presidents less than a year into their first terms in office.
It was an era when Putin admired Bush and Russia was trying to normalize relationships with the West after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The meeting reflected a positive moment in American and Russian relations — and a glimpse of Putin early in his rise to power in Russia.
“We had a great dinner last night; we had a little Texas barbecue, pecan pie, a little Texas music. And I think the President really enjoyed himself,” Bush told the students, according to the George W. Bush White House archives. “I told him he was welcome to come back next August to get a true taste of Crawford. He said, fine, and maybe you’d like to go to Siberia in the winter.”
During his speech, Bush mentioned that Putin and his wife Lyudmila stayed the night at his Prairie Chapel ranch.
“It’s my honor also to introduce President Putin to Crawford. I bet a lot of folks here, particularly the older folks, never dreamt that an American President would be bringing the Russian President to Crawford, Texas.” Bush said. “A lot of people never really dreamt that an American President and a Russian President could have established the friendship that we have. We were enemies for a long period of time.”
Bush added that “we’re working together to break the old ties, to establish a new spirit of cooperation and trust so that we can work together to make the world more peaceful.” His speech largely focused on combatting terrorism and seeing Russia as a partner in that fight.
“On our way here, we didn’t expect at all that things would be so warm and homey as they were at the ranch of President Bush here,” Putin said. “Yesterday, we had a surprise, but today’s meeting is yet another and very pleasant surprise, indeed, for us. Indeed, in any country, the backbone of any country is not only the people who live in the capitals but also and mostly, the people who live hundreds and thousands of miles from the capital.”
Putin’s comments largely lauded Russian contributions to the US and highlighted shared cultural histories by way of migration.
Students then asked questions about the US invasion of Afghanistan, a war that was only two months old at the time. One student asked the two leaders, ” How do you think the fall of the Taliban government will affect women’s rights?”
Bush spoke first, saying that “there’s no question the Taliban is the most repressive, backward group of people we have seen on the face of the Earth in a long period of time, including and particularly how they treat women.”
He told the students he wanted Putin to speak on the topic of human rights as well. Putin answered next, saying that “in Afghanistan, this phenomenon has taken an extreme form, and the disrespect of human rights has acquired extreme dimensions.”
“Overall, women in Afghanistan are basically not treated as people,” Putin said.