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Bush Works to Ease Russian Concerns Over Missile Defense Plan

06 June 2007

Russian President Vladimir Putin is threatening to aim missiles at new targets in Europe if America goes through with plans for a missile defense program. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, U.S. President George Bush says there would be no military response to Russia retargeting missiles because the countries are not at war.

President Bush is trying to ease Russia's concerns about the missile defense plan which would base a radar station in the Czech Republic and U.S. Interceptor missiles in Poland.

President Putin says it is the start of a new arms race, and he will not be responsible for retaliatory steps if the plan goes through. Mr. Putin told reporters in Moscow that Russia would respond by setting new targets in Europe that could be hit with ballistic missiles or cruise missiles or what he called a completely new system.

President Bush says he will try to ease President Putin's concerns when they meet at the G8 summit here in Germany.

In an off-camera interview with White House reporters before the start of the summit, President Bush said Russia is not going to attack Europe. He said there needs to be no U.S. military response if Russia retargets its missiles, because America is not at war with Russia and Russia is not a threat.

Asked if the increasingly heated rhetoric over the missile defense plan could make for a tense meeting with the Russian president, Mr. Bush said he will work to see that it is not tense.

The president has been addressing Russian concerns since this trip began in Prague. Following talks with the Czech president and prime minister Tuesday, President Bush said Russia has nothing to fear from the missile defense plan.

"Russia is not our enemy. The enemy of free societies such as ours would be radicals or extremists or a rogue regime trying to blackmail the free world in order to promote its ideological objectives," he said. "My attitude on missile defense, not my attitude, this is the truth, it is a purely defensive measure aimed not at Russia but at true threats."

U.S. officials say the missile defense plan is primarily aimed at stopping missiles from Iran.

Iran's top security official calls that the joke of the year. Supreme National Security Council chief Ali Larijani told Iran's state-run news agency that the country does not have missiles capable of reaching Europe.

President Putin agrees, saying he does not believe there are real threats from Iranian or North Korean missiles, so he says the American plan could be an effort to undermine Russia's relations with Europe.

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