Bush and Putin hold final meetings as leaders
VOICEOVER: US President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin have failed to overcome sharp differences over a US missile defense system. Meeting in the Russian resort town of Sochi, the two leaders exchanged warm words but made no progress on the issue that has been a sticking point in their relationship for the past seven years.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): I want to be understood correctly–no changes have happened in our principal stand on the American plans. Along with that, there were some positive changes.
VOICEOVER: Russia has long been upset over the US’ plans to build a missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. Although the US says the shield is designed to protect Europe from Middle Eastern missiles, Moscow has accused Washington of targeting the shield at Russia.
PUTIN: What can convince Russia that this system is not directed against our country? I cite several points. Firstly, the best thing would be to work together on the global defence system with an equal, democratic access to its control.
VOICEOVER: President Bush blamed lingering Cold War thinking for making it harder to reach an agreement on missile defense.
GEORGE W. BUSH, US PRESIDENT: We’ve spent a lot of time in our relationship trying to get rid of the Cold War. It’s over. It ended. And the fundamental question of this relationship is, you know, could we work together to put the Cold War in the past? And I fully recognize there are people in America and Russia that they don’t [sic] think the Cold War still exists. And sometimes that makes relations difficult.
VOICEOVER: At a news conference, Bush bristled at a journalist’s question that implied the two leaders were merely kicking the can down the road on missile defense.
BUSH: You can cynically say it’s kicking the can down the road. I don’t appreciate that, because this is an important part of my belief that it’s necessary to protect ourselves.
VOICEOVER: Despite the impasse, the two leaders agreed they would work together closely on difficult issues. Relations are also strained over Washington’s push for an eastward expansion of NATO into former Soviet republics. This will mark the last time that the two will meet as leaders of their respective countries. Putin’s hand-picked successor, Dmitri Medvedev, will take the office of president on May 7.