Bush Urges Russia To Reconsider Missile Defense

By David McKeeby
USINFO White House Correspondent

Washington – The United States would welcome Russian participation in a European-based missile defense system, President Bush said in a series of interviews.

Bush told reporters May 31 that, during the upcoming Group of Eight (G8) Summit, he plans to urge Russian President Vladimir Putin to accept the U.S. offer to join in a missile defense system.

The G8 summit will be held June 6-8 at the Baltic Sea resort of Heiligendamm, Germany, and hosted by the German government. Leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and Russia are scheduled to participate in the summit.

Among several stops in European capitals around the summit, Bush will visit the Czech Republic and Poland. The United States has proposed placing 10 missile interceptors in Poland and an advanced radar facility in the Czech Republic as components of a missile defense system that Bush argued is necessary to ensure the region’s security from outside threats.

“I'm deeply concerned about Iran having a nuclear weapon that could fly toward Europe, or, for that matter, toward any other allies,” Bush said.  “And we don't want to ever have ourselves in a position where the world could become blackmailed.”

Russia has objected to the installation of the missile defense system, saying it poses a threat to Russian security. (See related article.)

“We consider it harmful and dangerous to turn Europe into a powder keg,” Putin said of the system in a May 29 speech.

In recent weeks, Bush has sent Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Moscow to meet with Putin and other Russian senior officials. (See related article.)

“I told it to him recently myself,” Bush said of a recent conversation with Putin, “we have nothing to hide; as a matter of fact, if you would like to join, we welcome you.  You're not the enemy.” 

Bush highlighted the need for continued close diplomatic cooperation between Washington and Moscow to oppose terrorism and to send a strong message to North Korea and Iran.

“It's in the world's interest that the United States and Russia, and other nations work together to stop proliferators from being able to get a hold of materials that could end up harming innocent people,” he said.

But at the same time, Bush acknowledged U.S. concerns about the state of democracy in Russia, Russian’s recent reaction to neighboring Estonia’s decision to relocate a Soviet-era World War II memorial and differences over the future of Kosovo. (See related article.)

Bush will host Putin July 1-2 at the home of the U.S. president’s father, former President George H.W. Bush, in Kennebunkport, Maine, to continue discussions on missile defense and other issues shaping U.S.-Russian relations.

For more information on U.S. policies, see Russia.