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>> The International Herald Tribune


BUSH AND PUTIN UNLIKELY TO RESOLVE DISPUTES ON MISSILE DEFENSE

AND KOSOVO AT JULY MEETING IN U.S. The International Herald Tribune - June 15, 2007 A U.S.-Russian dispute over a missile shield in Eastern Europe is too complicated to be resolved during two days of talks next months between President George W. Bush and President Vladimir Putin, a Kremlin spokesman said Thursday. Dmitry Peskov said the United States should freeze the proposed anti-missile plan while Washington and Moscow evaluate a counterproposal from Putin. While ties between Moscow and Washington have been described as being at their worst since the Cold War, Peskov said the relationship was "definitely not living through its golden age. But I wouldn't agree that we're in the worst period" since the Cold War. As conceived by the United States, the missile shield would break the strategic balance of power that has helped keep the peace in Europe for decades, Peskov said in an interview. "Of course Russia will have to restore that balance somehow," he said. Bush and Putin are to meet July 1-2 in Kennebunkport, Maine, at the oceanfront estate of Bush's father, former President George H.W. Bush. The United States has proposed setting up a radar system in the Czech Republic and installing 10 interceptor rockets in Poland to guard against a strike from a country such as Iran. Putin is unhappy about the prospect of missiles being deployed in Russia's back yard, and has proposed instead that the system be anchored around a Soviet-era radar installation in Azerbaijan. Bush has called the idea interesting but has said the United States is going ahead with planning for the Poland-Czech Republic plan. Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington Igor Shuvalov, an aide to Putin, said that the Russian president has Russian popular opinion behind him in rejecting the U.S. missile defense plans in Eastern Europe. "The Russian people, all the people, all the generations would never easily accept the deployment of that equipment along Russian borders," Shuvalov said. Peskov, who also attended the event, characterized the proposed missile defense system as a strategic threat to Russia. "We are speaking about a plan that the United States would deploy for the first time in history nuclear strategic arms on the territory of Eastern Europe on the border of Russia," Peskov said. "So that's why Russia has concerns." The Russian officials stressed that Moscow hoped that the U.S. would consider Putin's proposal, while the Bush administration said Thursday that it would follow through with discussions for the original plan at the same time. "The United States will continue to discuss missile defense options with Poland, Czech Republic, other NATO allies as well as the Russians," National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said. "This is a complex issue which will include a number of meetings with all the parties involved over the coming months. We hope the Russians accept President Bush's invitation to send experts to the United States," Johndroe said. The other main dispute in Kennebunkport will be independence for Serbia's breakway province of Kosovo. The United States backs Kosovo's bid while Russia, Serbia's traditional ally, opposes it and has threatened to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution. Russia contends independence would set a dangerous precedent for the world's other breakaway regions. Serbia sees Kosovo as the heart of its historic homeland. Kosovo, a province of 2 million, of whom 90 percent are ethnic Albanians, has been run by the U.N. since mid-1999 when a NATO air war halted a crackdown by Serb forces on independence-seeking ethnic Albanian rebels. The Security Council has not set a date to take up the resolution that would endorse the recommendation of U.N. special envoy Martti Ahtisaari for independence for Kosovo under international supervision.





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