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7 Apr, 2008 08:27

Presidents at odds on NATO & missile defence

Despite the handshakes and the nostalgia, the farewell summit between presidents Putin and Bush at Sochi ended without a breakthrough. The leaders failed to find compromises on the main issues that divide them – NATO expansion and U.S. plans fo

But analysts say the meeting was a success in that the leaders outlined paths for future cooperation between their countries.

Speaking at a media briefing after the talks, Vladimir Putin said neither side was expecting significant progress on the missiles dispute.

“It does not of course offer any breakthroughs in the current problems. But then, it would be naive to count on that. What is important is that the document sums up the positive results achieved over the past years,” Putin said at a news conference after the talks.

The U.S. is determined to go ahead with its missile defence programme in Eastern Europe, despite Moscow’s opposition. After Sunday’s talks, Bush said the missiles “are not aimed at Russia”, insisting that the project is aimed at security and will benefit all sides.

Putin responded that the best thing is to cooperate on global missile defence, with equal democratic access to its management.

“If we can't do it now, then we will insist that the transparency that we have discussed is evident, objective, and is carried out constantly both by technical means and by the observation of experts,” Putin said.

NATO, arms treaties and nuclear security

The presidents also touched upon the issue of NATO enlargement. Putin once again voiced Russia’s position:

“I believe in order to improve relations with Russia it is necessary not to push former Soviet republics into military blocs but to develop relations with Russia itself,” he said.

Another issue discussed in Sochi was the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. Putin expressed cautious optimism about the prospects of agreement.

The presidents also talked about nuclear non-proliferation. Speaking to journalists, President Bush outlined the importance of Russia’s role in the Iranian issue, saying he greatly appreciated Moscow’s efforts in this field.

Medvedev ‘smart and straightforward’: George Bush

As well as holding talks with his outgoing counterpart, Bush also met Russia's President-elect Dmitry Medvedev.

“My first impressions are very positive,” said Bush after the meeting. “He seems to be smart and straightforward”.

 Medvedev, for his part, noted the importance of good relations between the countries.

“Russian-U.S. relations are the key factor in preserving world security. When I officially assume my duties I will do my best to see that our relations will develop in constructive co-operation with you,” Medvedev said.

To watch the news conference of Presidents Bush and Putin follow the link.

Meanwhile as soon as there is new leadership in Moscow and Washington, there is a chance for the two sides to come together and find common ground as Charles A. Kupchan, Professor of International Relations at Georgetown University in Washington DC, believes.

“There are some issues that are going to be very hard for Russia and the U.S. to find common ground on, such as the secession of Kosovo from Serbia and the question of NATO expansion. But there are many interesting common areas such as the agreement on missile defence, how to deal with Iran’s nuclear programme, what to do about peace in the Middle East and energy supplies. I think in these areas there is a chance to find common ground,” he said.