Bush, Russia’s Putin To Discuss Missile Defense Plan

Washington - President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet on the margins of the Group of Eight (G8) leaders’ meeting and discuss the proposed U.S. missile defense system in Europe, U.S. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley said June 4.

"This missile defense cooperation we're talking about, involving the Czech Republic and Poland, is all about threats to Europe from rogue states and others.  It is not about and does not pose a threat to Russia," Hadley said aboard Air Force One traveling to Prague, Czech Republic.

Bush began his visit to Europe June 4 with a stop in Prague before traveling on to Poland, then Heiligendamm, Germany, for the G8 meeting June 6-8. He is expected to conclude the trip with visits to Italy, Albania and Bulgaria. Leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and Russia are scheduled to participate in the G8 meeting.

Hadley said the United States has been completely open in its discussions with Putin and members of his government.  The president sent Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently to meet with Putin and further explain the U.S. basing plan for 10 missile interceptors in Poland and an advanced radar station in the Czech Republic, he said.

The United States has said in announcing the plan that it is designed to protect Europe from states like Iran and North Korea, which are suspected of developing nuclear weapons programs, he said.  Putin has countered that the missile defense plan poses a threat to Russia and could ignite a new arms race.  The United States has invited Russia to join the U.S. missile defense initiative, Hadley said.

In addition to meeting with Putin on the sidelines of the G8 meeting in the Baltic Sea resort of Heiligendamm, Bush has invited Putin to join him at the Bush family retreat at Kennebunkport, Maine July 1-2 to discuss many issues of concern to both the United States and Russia, Hadley said.

Hadley said the recent “escalation in the rhetoric” on the U.S. plan has not been helpful.

The United States sees an obligation with the proposed European missile defense system to offer additional protection to the 26-nation NATO alliance and its other friends and supporters throughout Europe, Hadley said.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said June 4 that the increased rhetoric has been somewhat surprising because the United States has been open regarding its missile defense plan.  He said the United States has talked about the overall plan with Russia and has asked the Russian government to participate.

"We work together with Russia quite well on a number of different issues of mutual concern," McCormack said.  "We're going to keep doing that."

A transcript of Hadley’s remarks is available on the White House Web site.

For more information on U.S. policies, see Russia and Group of Eight (G8).