U.S. Missile Defense Plan Draws Kremlin's Ire

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When Western leaders meet this week in Europe, they are expected to debate an American plan for missile defense. The Kremlin is furious about U.S. plans, which carry echoes of the Cold War, to install parts of its controversial missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland. Both are former Soviet Bloc countries that are now members of the European Union and NATO.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

When Western leaders meet this week in Europe, they will debate an emerging issue and an old one. The emerging issue is global warming, and we'll have more on that in a moment. The old issue is an American plan for missile defense, and that issue carries echoes of the Cold War. In fact, Moscow has threatened to aim missiles at Europe for the first time in years.

NPR's Gregory Feifer reports from Moscow.

GREGORY FEIFER: Mr. Bush is visiting a main center of controversy in Washington's diplomatic confrontation with Moscow. The Kremlin is furious about U.S. plans to install parts of its controversial missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland, both former Soviet block countries that are now members of the European Union and NATO.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the G8 Summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the missile shield will throw off the world's strategic balance.

President VLADIMIR PUTIN (Russia): (Russian spoken)

FEIFER: Of course, we'll have to react to it, he said. It wasn't we who started this new arms race in Europe.

Today, Mr. Bush is expected to praise Democratic reform in former communist countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic and discuss the difficulty of promoting democracy in countries such as Russia. The speech is expected to further anger Moscow ahead of a meeting between Putin and Mr. Bush on the sidelines of the G8 Summit in Germany tomorrow.

Gregory Feifer, NPR News, Moscow.

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Bush Seeks to Calm Fears Over Missile Defense

Map of Bush's Europe Trip i

President Bush plans to visit several nations on his trip to the G8 Summit in Germany. Lindsay Mangum, NPR hide caption

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Map of Bush's Europe Trip

President Bush plans to visit several nations on his trip to the G8 Summit in Germany.

Lindsay Mangum, NPR

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President Bush on Tuesday asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to cooperate with him on plans for a missile defense system, declaring that "Russia is not the enemy" and that Moscow should not fear a U.S. missile defense shield based in Europe.

On his way to the G-8 summit in Germany, President Bush met with Czech leaders. He sought to reassure them and Russian President Vladimir Putin that, as he said, "the Cold War is over."

"It ended," Bush said. "The people of the Czech Republic don't have to choose between being a friend of the United States or a friend with Russia. You can be both. We don't believe in a zero-sum world."

Most Czechs share Russia's unhappiness about the proposal for a U.S. anti-missile radar base to be built southwest of Prague. Recent polls in the former Soviet satellite, now a democratic NATO ally, show more than 60 percent of the public opposes the plan.

The Kremlin is bitterly opposed to the missile shield, and Putin has warned that Russia could take "retaliatory steps" if Washington insists on building it. China has also joined in criticizing the plan.

Bush said he would make case directly to the Russian president.

"My message will be Vladimir - I call him Vladimir – you shouldn't fear a missile defense system," Bush said. "As a matter of fact, why don't you cooperate with us on a missile defense system?"

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

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