Diplomats: Bush likely to reject anti-nuke missile cooperation with Putin

Publish date: June 28, 2007

Written by: Charles Digges

NEW YORK - Bush Administration officials are working to lower expectations for the US president’s upcoming talks on Sunday with Russian President Vladimir Putin over a dispute about an anti-nuclear missile shield Washington wishes to activate in the Czech Republic and Poland.

The talks will take place at the Bush family ocean-front estate in Kennebunkport, Maine.

“I would caution against expecting grand new announcements,” White House press secretary Tony Snow said Wednesday of the meeting at the home of Bush’s father, former President George H.W. Bush.

“This is, in fact, an opportunity for two leaders to talk honestly and candidly with one another.’”

The younger Bush and Putin are expected to talk about the Middle East, Iran’s nuclear ambitions and missile defense. But Snow said: “If you’re expecting some sort of grand initiative, a bold announcement – no.’”

US: Missile shield to protect against Iranian attack

According to US administration officials, the proposed missile shield is meant to deter a possible nuclear threat from Iran, which is deeply immersed – despite international uproar and two, soon to be three, rounds of United Nations Security Council sanctions – in developing and industrialising its uranium enrichment capabilities.

Tehran has repeatedly said the enrichment programme is to support its coming infrastructure of nuclear power plants, the first of which – a Russian built 1,000 megawatt light water reactor – is expected to come on line later this year in the Persian Gulf city of Bushehr.

Putin’s toned down rhetoric may return to Cold War chill

Putin has vehemently opposed the US plans to build a missile defense system in Central Europe in two countries that formerly fell under indirect control of Soviet era Moscow. The issue threatened to cloud the recent Group of Eight talk in Germany.

Prior to the summit, Putin had said that if the United States carried through with building the missile shield, he would point Russian nuclear weapons at European targets.

But Putin surprised Bush and the international community, who were expecting a Cold War showdown, by offering Moscow’s cooperation in the shield, and suggested that it be stationed in the former Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan at a radar station Moscow leases there.

Diplomats say compromise on nuke shield unlikely

Diplomats told Bellona Web Thursday that the two leaders had agreed to hold this weekend’s meeting in Kennebunkport in order that their opposing views not distract from other issues, such as general agreement on greenhouse gas emissions caps, that were discussed at the G-8 meeting at the beginning of this month.

But diplomats familiar with the Bush and Putin positions relative to the missile shield plan told Bellona Web on Thursday that the US Administration was unlikely to accept Putin’s offer.

Kennebunkport a ruse to privately reject Putin?
“The US is very stubborn about having the nuclear defense located in what are now NATO countries and not under the perceived influence of Moscow,” said one European diplomat who asked not to be identified as he was not authorised to speak about the subject.

“The whole Kennebunkport notion is a plan to deflate Putin’s proposition without dismissing him on an international stage such as the G-8.”

White House spokesman snow was careful not to dismiss the Putin suggestion out of hand.

“The president was encouraged that President Putin thought it was important to talk about missile defense, recognizing that if a hostile power, a rogue nation gets the capability of putting nuclear weapons on a missile, everybody in Europe and Asia is going to be in jeopardy,” Snow said.

But US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has stated firmly that Bush will flatly refuse to embrace the notion of a facility in Azerbaijan as a substitute for his plans in Poland and the Czech Republic, the Associated Press reported.