Bush Offers Putin a Trip to Kennebunkport

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As the U.S.-Russian relationship sours, President Bush invites the Russian President Vladmir Putin for a rare visit at the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine.

LIANE HANSEN, host:

President Bush also focused his attention this past week on another troublesome foreign policy issue - the souring relationship between Washington and Moscow. That drew the attention of NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr.

DANIEL SCHORR: President Bush has entertained foreign dignitaries at the White House, at Camp David and on his Texas ranch. But on July 1st, he will host Russian President Vladimir Putin, where no foreigner has been hosted before -at George Bush Sr.'s ocean-side home in Kennebunkport, Maine.

This is patently an effort to patch up the worst relations between the United States and Russia since the Cold War. Hard words have been exchanged over President Bush's plan to position parts of an anti-missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has called Russian objections ludicrous. And just this past week, Rice said Russia seems to think and act in the zero-sum terms of another era.

Russia has announced that it will veto an American-backed plan to grant independence to Kosovo - once a province of Serbia. In a speech last month, Putin came close to comparing President Bush to Hitler. He said that America is trying to dictate just as the Third Reich did. And nasty comments from Secretary Rice and her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, dominated the meeting of the foreign ministers of the G8 industrial powers this past week in Potsdam, Germany.

That meeting was in preparation for the upcoming G8 summit at a Baltic Sea resort in Germany, and that could be dominated by the Russian-American split as the foreign ministers' meeting was.

It was with all this bad feeling in mind that Mister Bush decided to make the grand gesture of inviting Putin to the very private home of his parents. But the president may have miscalculated. In my experience in Russia, I found that its leaders tend to consider such friendly gestures as signs of weakness. And if history is an indicator, Putin may well exploit his weekend at Kennebunkport, to reinforce hard-line positions and to tell his people back home that Russia is a superpower again.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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