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Bush, Putin Highlight Cooperation in Final Summit

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Bush, Putin Highlight Cooperation in Final Summit


Bush, Putin Highlight Cooperation in Final Summit

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From NPR News, this is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Lynn Neary sitting in for Liane Hansen.

Russia and the U.S. are still at odds over missile defense and many other issues, but Presidents George Bush and Vladimir Putin ended their farewell summit on a more upbeat note, trying to smooth the way for their predecessors.

NPR's Michele Kelemen was in Sochi on Russia's Black Sea coast where Putin hosted Mr. Bush at his vacation compound.

MICHELE KELEMEN: The relationship may be in trouble but you couldn't tell that with all the smiles and jokes at their meetings in a wooded compound along the Black Sea. The two men spent much of the time trying to highlight their personal friendship and Mr. Bush said he was glad no cameras were around when he got up to dance a bit with a Russian folk group at dinner last night.

President VLADIMIR PUTIN (Russia): We were able to see you were a brilliant dancer.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes. Well, thank you very much. We'll leave it at that.

KELEMEN: When it came down to business today, both played up the areas of cooperation. President Bush said they signed a document that says, quote, we reject the zero-sum thinking of the Cold War when what was good for Russia was bad for America and vice versa.

Pres. BUSH: I fully recognize there are people in, you know, in America and Russia that, you know, think the Cold War still exists and sometimes that makes relations difficult. But it's very important for leaders to think strategically and, you know, not get stuck in the past and be willing to advance agendas.

KELEMEN: Mr. Bush said he felt nostalgic meeting with Putin one last time before the Russian leader hands off to his successor in May. President-elect Dmitri Medvedev was also at the dacha today to hold separate talks with President Bush.

Mr. DMITRI MEDVEDEV (President-Elect, Russia): (Russian spoken)

KELEMEN: Medvedev, a Putin protégé, who looked a bit uncomfortable, said Putin has done a lot to advance relations with Washington and he promised to continue to work in a constructive spirit. President Bush called Medvedev an impressive and straightforward fellow.

Pres. BUSH: You can write down I was impressed and looking forward to working with him.

KELEMEN: Gone today was all the anti-American rhetoric that had been coming out of the Kremlin for the past year and worrying the White House. And there was hardly a mention of U.S. concerns about the rollback of democracy in Russia. But they did talk about the dispute over U.S. plans to put interceptor missiles in Poland and radar in the Czech Republic as part of a missile defense system. President Bush promised to be more transparent with Russia on this; President Putin, speaking through an interpreter, said at least Russia's concerns have been heard.

Pres. PUTIN: (Through translator) One of the most difficult issues was and remains the issue of missile defense in Europe. This is not about language; this is not about diplomatic phrasing or wording. This is about the substance of the issue.

KELEMEN: Putin also tried to put to rest concerns that he will hang on to power. He's expected to become Russia's next prime minister once Medvedev formally becomes president. Again through an interpreter, he said the president will run foreign policy.

Pres. PUTIN: (Through translator) Now, as far as your humble servant, myself, if I become prime minister, the prime minister will have many other issues and problems on his agenda.

KELEMEN: His choice of location for this summit was also a way to look forward, not back. This Black Sea resort is a favorite retreat for Putin and will play host to the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Pres. BUSH: This is where you ski?

KELEMEN: The two men were joking around as they looked at a model for the Winter Games. Mr. Bush was shown on the model where Putin likes to ski. And with Mrs. Bush by his side, he noticed that there's a river named Laura. The U.S. and Russian presidents did their best to show they are at ease with each other, even after some troubled times in their relationship.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Sochi.

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