Bush, Putin Meet for Talks in Maine

Russian president Vladimir Putin arrived late Sunday afternoon at the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine, for two days of meetings with President Bush.

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DEBBIE ELLIOT, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Debbie Elliott.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in the wealthy resort town of Kennebunkport, Maine for the start of two days of meetings with President Bush. Almost six years ago, Putin visited Mr. Bush at his Crawford, Texas ranch. This time, the meeting takes place at the compound owned by Mr. Bush's father, the first President Bush. Hanging over everything is the increasingly tense relationship between the U.S. and Russia. NPR's Don Gonyea reports from Kennebunkport.

DON GONYEA: As international summits go, this one is unusually low-key. The White House tells reporters not to look for any big announcements when it ends Monday. The two leaders aren't even scheduled to hold a news conference, and American officials don't even use the word summit. As for the agenda, well, neither side is offering much there either.

Certain to be a prime topic is a U.S. proposal to build a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe, something Putin vehemently opposes and considers a threat. He has countered by proposing that an old Soviet air radar installation in Azerbaijan be used as part of any defense shield, thus giving Russia a role in the program. But, again, no resolution is expected here in Kennebunkport.

Other agenda items are likely to include a U.S. effort to enlist Putin as a more active player in trying to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. On another sticking point, it's not clear to what degree Mr. Bush will repeat his concerns that Putin's Russia is abandoning democratic reform. As much as anything, this seems to be an effort to put the Bush-Putin relationship back on more cordial footing.

The events at the Bush compound have also transformed Kennebunkport in advance of the Fourth of July. The usual holiday crush has been augmented by hundreds of journalists and camera crews. American flags fly everywhere to be sure, but some buildings are welcoming Putin by flying the white-blue-and-red Russian flag as well, and there are protesters, hundreds gathered in a local park.

The dominant theme there was a call to impeach President Bush over the Iraq war. Some criticized Putin as well over Czechnya and for cracking down on dissent. The feeling at the protest was that not much would come out of the summit. It could be the only thing the protesters and the White House agree on. Don Gonyea, NPR News, in Kennebunkport.

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