JENNIFER LUDDEN, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Jennifer Ludden.
Sixty years ago today in Berlin, the commanders of Hitler's armed forces signed an unconditional surrender to the Allies, ending World War II in Europe. The document was signed late at night. It was already May 9th in Moscow, so that's when Russians celebrate this anniversary. For this year's celebrations tomorrow, the Russian government is pulling out all the stops. President Bush and more than 50 other world leaders will join President Vladimir Putin to mark V-E Day on Red Square. Today Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin held private talks. NPR's Don Gonyea is traveling with the president and joins me now from Moscow.
DON GONYEA reporting:
LUDDEN: In the lead-up to today's meeting, President Bush has had some very strong comments denouncing the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe after World War II. I'm wondering if there's been any sign that this affected the atmosphere there today.
GONYEA: Right. And don't forget, there've been strong words from Putin directed at the US as well. But today, out at Putin's country compound, which is outside Moscow, it was all smiles. They held that hour-long meeting, after which they came out. Sitting in the driveway there was a vintage 1956 white Volga. People who know cars know that's a Russian luxury car, and it is Putin's. You know, when the president has guests down at his ranch, he drives them around in his pickup truck; he did that with Putin once. This was Putin's turn to return the favor. But as they walked to the car, Putin yelled to the president, `Do you want to drive?' So President Bush got behind the wheel; both men grinned from ear to ear as they drove off.
Not long after that, we did get the briefest of briefings from the Russian foreign minister and from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Rice said their relationship is excellent, that they feel they can discuss anything and that they're two men who say what they mean.
LUDDEN: Well, do we know what they talked about?
GONYEA: Only some. Well, we don't know if their recent differences were aired out in any big way. Rice says they talked a lot about the Middle East, about supporting Palestinian Leader Mahmoud Abbas. They also covered Iran and North Korea and concerns about nuclear proliferation. Afghanistan and Iraq came up, we're told, as did Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organization.
LUDDEN: So what's on the program for tomorrow?
GONYEA: It's going to be a big-time Russian military parade. There will be row after row after row of Russian soldiers marching past. Tanks will roll through the square. What will be unusual is who is watching this parade. There will be more than 50 world leaders on the viewing stand. President Bush will be there right next to Vladimir Putin; Britain's Tony Blair will be there.
There is, I should add, some relief on the part of the White House that North Korea's Kim Jong Il has declined an invite to attend. Fidel Castro will also be absent. But also missing will be the leaders of two Baltic states, Estonia and Lithuania, two new democracies who insist that they cannot come to something like this until and unless Russia apologizes for the Soviet Union's actions in the Baltics and in Eastern and Central Europe after Hitler was defeated 60 years ago.
LUDDEN: NPR's Don Gonyea in Moscow, thank you.
GONYEA: It's a pleasure.
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