Bush Defends Missile System Plan in Europe

Rising tensions between the United States and Russia are threatening to dominate President Bush's six-day trip to Europe. The president is in the Czech Republic at the start of a European tour that will include the G-8 summit in Germany.

His visit to Prague includes talks on the controversial American plan to extend a U.S. missile defense system into Eastern Europe. The idea has prompted angry comments from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Bush Seeks to Calm Fears Over Missile Defense

Map of Bush's Europe Trip i i

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

itoggle caption Lindsay Mangum, NPR
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

Dispatches From Bush Trip

NPR reporters covering President Bush's Europe trip and the G8 Summit in Germany, June 6-8, provide an insider's view.

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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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