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President George W. Bush will meet with President Vladimir Putin on April 6th to discuss missile defense and other important issues. The visit to Russia is the last stop in a European trip that includes a visit to Bucharest, Romania, for a NATO summit in which NATO will consider membership invitations for Croatia, Albania and Macedonia. Mr. Bush will also journey to Kiev, Ukraine, to highlight his support for Ukraine's and Georgia's aspiration to join the NATO alliance.
White House National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley says the Russia trip will be a chance to "resolve some outstanding issues" between the two countries:
"This is an opportunity for the two leaders to meet, assess what progress has been made and see whether we can come together with a framework that can. . . .consolidate areas where we are cooperating together, maybe resolve some outstanding issues such as missile defense."
Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin will discuss the U.S. proposal to install a missile defense radar system in the Czech Republic and ten interceptor missiles in Poland. National Security Advisor Hadley says President Bush will provide the Russian leader with concrete assurances that the missile defense system is only to protect Europe from the threat of a potential ballistic missile attack by rogue states such as Iran and North Korea. Russia, says Mr. Hadley, could also derive benefits from this new missile defense system:
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"The president has talked about maybe the United States, Russia and Europe should work together to develop a regional architecture - equal partners, if you will, in developing that architecture - that will use resources contributed by the United States, Europe and Russia to provide against threats from the Middle East that could threaten Europe as well as Russia. That is what we would like to see occur."
The U.S. believes that the missile threat from Iran is real and growing, and it is a threat that extends to the United States, Europe and Russia. Moreover, the proposed system is of no use against a huge nuclear and ballistic missile arsenal such as that possessed by Russia. Clearly, it is in the interest of the United States, Russia, and Europe to work together to build an effective missile defense system.