Missile Defense System No Threat to Russia, Bush Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 5, 2007 The U.S. missile defense initiative in Europe is not aimed at Russia, but against the possibility of rogue states seeking to blackmail the West, President Bush said today during a news conference in Prague, Czech Republic.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus hosted the news conference after meetings in Rathmayer Hall in Prague Castle.
Bush said the Russians have nothing to fear from the program and invited Russian leaders to come to the United States to see the system. He also invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to send Russian scientists to the United States to work alongside Americans in developing the system.
Putin has expressed dissatisfaction with a U.S. proposal to place a radar system in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland. Some experts have called Putin’s statements about aiming Russian nuclear weapons at Europe if the U.S. plan goes forward a return to the Cold War.
U.S. officials have said repeatedly that the proposal is aimed at defending U.S. allies from launches from rogue states, such as Iran. Iranian scientists are working on a nuclear weapons program and already possess missiles with the range to hit Central and Western Europe.
The threat a rogue regime poses is “the true threat to peace,” Bush said. The president said the missile defense program is “a purely defensive measure, aimed not at Russia, but at true threats.”
Bush will meet with Putin as part of the G-8 summit in Germany tomorrow through June 8. He said he will tell Putin not to fear the missile defense system and will invite the Russians to participate in the defensive program.
He said he will tell Putin: “Please send your generals over to see how such a system would work. Send your scientists. Let us have the ability to discuss this issue in an open forum where we'll be completely transparent.”
Bush also said he’ll discuss the multinational nature of the plan when he meets with the Russian leader. “I'll remind him that we're having these discussions not only bilaterally with the Czech Republic and Poland, but also through the context of NATO,” the president said.