Bush To Meet With Putin Over Russian Criticism Of European Missile Defense
President Bush is heading to a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to attempt a resolution of Russian objections to U.S. plans for a ballistic missile defense shield against weapons launched by Iran.
Bush, who also is attending a NATO meeting, argues that Iran poses a rising threat, and therefore European nations won’t be safe unless the United States installs a Ground- based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system.
But Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with their counterparts in Russia earlier, and they came away with no Russian movement to endorse the GMD system
Rather, Russia has excoriated the missile defense plan, saying it is targeted at Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Bush and others have dismissed such claims as ludicrous, observing that there would be just a few interceptors in missile silos in Poland, against hundreds of Russian ICBMs and nuclear warheads.
Also, the GMD interceptors wouldn’t be fast enough to catch Russian ICBMs, Bush noted.
Bush’s relations with Putin have been prickly at times, with Putin stiff-arming U.S. efforts in some areas. Putin leaves office in May, but he will be replaced by Dmitry Medvedev, a hand-picked successor. Many observers believe Putin still will call the shots in Moscow.
For Bush, however, many missile defense advocates urge him to persuade leaders in the Czech Republic and Poland to agree to host the GMD system quickly, because Bush will be out of office next January, and the next U.S. president may not be such a strong supporter of missile defense systems.
Russia has threatened the Czechs and Poles, vowing that if the GMD system is built, Russia will use military force to demolish it.