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Bush Continues Talks With Czech Leader On European Missile Defense

By | March 3, 2008

      President Bush said he spoke last week with Mirek Topolanek, the Czech Republic prime minister, to again press the U.S. call for creation of a Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system in Europe.

      GMD systems now are installed in Alaska and California, and the European system would be a third site, guarding against missiles that Iran might launch toward targets in Europe.

      If built, the GMD system would include a radar in the Czech Republic, and interceptors in silos in Poland.

      Russian President Vladimir Putin has opposed installation of the GMD system in Europe, claiming it would threaten Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, an assertion roundly dismissed by U.S. leaders.

      "I believe it’s in our interests to try to figure out a way for the Russians to understand the system is not aimed at them, but aimed at the real threats of the 21st century, which could be a launch from a violent regime — a launch of a weapon of mass destruction," Bush said.

      He spoke with reporters after the election of Dmitry Medvedev to succeed Putin as president of Russia. But Putin likely will have huge continuing clout in another post.

      It will be interesting, Bush mused, to see who — Putin or Medvedev — shows up to represent Russia at the next Group of Eight Nations heads of state meeting.

      The United States will wish to work with whomever runs Russia, to seek to prevent terrorists or rogue states from capturing Russian weapons of mass destruction.

      "It’s in our interest to be able to make sure that materials that could cause great harm aren’t proliferated," Bush said.

      He also praised Russia for supplying nuclear material to Iran to power a nuclear electrical generating station, noting that the Russian move eliminates any pretext Iran might assert for its continued production of nuclear materials.

      While Iran says the materials would be for peaceful electrical generation, Western leaders fear Iran may be assembling fissile materials to construct nuclear weapons.

      Bush said whomever is elected in November to succeed him in the White House, the next U.S. president should work diligently to foster better relations with Russia.

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