KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine – President Bush accepted a proposal from Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday to involve more European nations in negotiations over missile defense and to consider basing a controversial anti-missile radar system in southern Russia.
However, two days of informal talks between the two presidents at the Bush family’s seaside compound did not resolve their central disagreement over U.S. plans to install missile-defense facilities in Eastern Europe, systems Russia considers a potential threat on its borders.
Putin’s proposals, representing a marked expansion over suggestions he offered in June, also would include joint early warning centers in Moscow and Brussels, Belgium. Putin said his proposal would make the systems the United States plans to build in the Czech Republic and Poland superfluous.
“There would be no need to place any more facilities in Europe,” Putin said, standing next to Bush above the rocky Maine shoreline. “Such cooperation I believe would result in raising to an entirely new level the quality of cooperation between Russia and the United States. And for all practical purposes, this would lead to a gradual development of strategic partnership in the area of security.”
“He 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 the Czech Republic and Poland need to be an integral part of the system.”
Both sides described Putin’s two-day visit to Walker’s Point, the Bush family’s stately resort, as friendly and productive, helping the two leaders move beyond the tensions that have hobbled relations in recent months.
The two presidents also discussed their disagreements over Iran, which the United States believes is trying to acquire nuclear weapons by taking advantage of a civilian nuclear reactor Russia has been building there.
“I have been counting on the Russians’ support to send a clear message to the Iranians,” Bush said. “We discussed a variety of ways to continue sending a joint message.”