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6 Apr, 2008 04:40

Presidents fail to end missiles row at farewell talks

No major breakthroughs have been made at the final talks between outgoing presidents Bush and Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. The main sticking point remains U.S. plans to deploy a missile defence system in Europe.

Bush has also been meeting Russia's President-elect Dmitry Medvedev who 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,” said Medvedev said.

Missiles in Europe: resolving the issue or handing over to successors?

The Sochi talks are seen as a chance to forge a concrete agreement over issues such as missile defence and the CFE (Conventional Forces in Europe) Treaty.

At the NATO conference in Bucharest, Putin and Bush clashed over U.S plans for missile defence bases in Europe and NATO's planned eastward enlargement. But the Russian President said he would work for continued friendship and dialogue.

Bush does have a couple of cards in his favour. First is NATO’s support of his plans, and second, the agreement with the Czech Republic to deploy the radar system there, both of which haven't exactly pleased Russia.

Russia hopes either to construct the system jointly, or to exclude any technical possibility of the system being used against it, and this time the Kremlin wants to have it sealed in a document.

Following in father’s footsteps

George W. is not the first Bush to visit Sochi. In 2003 his father George H. W. Bush was here on an informal visit. Back then he advised Putin not to invite his son.

“You might not get rid of him – he might decide to stay, it’s beautiful here by the sea!” Bush senior said to Putin at the time.

However, Putin hasn't followed his advice.

Many praise Bush senior for his international policy, particularly successful relations with Russia and say this is one case where “Like father like son” doesn’t apply. But there’s still hope that maybe Sochi’s warm weather and the personal warmth between George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin will help to soothe the tensions between the states.

Analysts give their predictions

Head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Russia’s Upper House Mikhail Margelov says Bush's visit to Sochi is designed to inject a much-needed positive element into his international legacy.

“The outgoing American president needs to do at least something positive in international politics. People can’t remember him just as the man who couldn’t create the incubator of democracy and stability in Afghanistan, the man who put Iraq on the brink of collapse, the man who couldn’t solve all the problems of Euro-Atlantic integration and Euro-Atlantic solidarity,” said Margelov, adding that Bush has to show Americans that he is capable of negotiating with Russia.

The deputy director of the Geopolitical Sciences Academy, Konstantin Sivkov, says the only way any progress can come out of the Sochi meeting is if Russia backs down in all its disagreements with the United States.

He believes “any hopes that after the meeting in Sochi there will be significant changes in relations between the leaders of Russia and the United States are not entirely realistic”. The reason prolonged efforts by the U.S. to “force Russia out of its traditional spheres of influence”.

Citing the examples of anti-missile defence and NATO’s possible expansion into Georgia and Ukraine, Sivkov says that the U.S. “has no intention of taking back the money already invested in these projects”. So only one thing can bring a thaw in relations, and that is if the Russian leadership gives up the geopolitical interests of the country – but this is very unlikely," says the analyst.