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Putin Offers to Cooperate with U.S. on Missile Defense

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 2, 2007 – Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged to increase cooperation with the United States as it moves toward establishing a missile defense program in Europe, he told reporters during a news conference today with President Bush.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
President George W. Bush and President Vladimir Putin meet with the press, prior to the Russian leader's departure, July 2, 2007, from Kennebunkport, Maine. White House photo by Eric Draper
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The two leaders met at Bush’s family home in Kennebunkport, Maine, to discuss bilateral relations. Speaking about missile defense, Putin seemed more agreeable than during the most recent U.S.-Russian dialogue on the topic.

“President Putin proposed a regional approach to missile defense, that we ought to work together bilaterally as well as work through the Russia-NATO Council, and I'm in strong agreement with that concept,” Bush said.

During a June 7 discussion, Putin suggested that the missile program be built in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan and opposed U.S. plans to install the rocket system in the Czech Republic and Poland. Proposing another alternative today, Putin offered to contribute and house several missile defense components in southern Russia.

“We would be prepared to engage in this system also a newly built radar, early warning system, in the south of Russia,” Putin said. “That cooperation, I believe, would result in raising to an entirely new level the quality of cooperation between Russia and the United States.

“For all practical purposes, this would lead to a gradual development of strategic partnership in the area of security,” he added.

Bush called the proposed plan “innovate,” but reiterated the strategic roles the Czech Republic and Poland play.

“(Putin) just laid out a vision. I think it's very sincere, I think it's innovative, I think it's strategic,” Bush said. “But as I told Vladimir, I think that Czech Republic and Poland need to be an integral part of the system.”

The president said Putin has made “a very constructive and bold strategic move,” and the two presidents agreed to hold future consultative meetings on missile defense strategy, adding that additional national leaders could be party to these discussions.

Each European nation will have to decide whether it will join the partnership, said Putin, who noted that non-alliance could have long-term political and economic effects.

“It would be clear to even a layman, if a country doesn't decide in a strategic partnership, this choice would determine the position of any country both in economic terms and from the political arena, in the final analysis, in the long term,” he said. “Therefore, I'm confident that there will be interstate partners or parties in Europe.”

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