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Bush, Putin to Discuss Missile Defense

07 June 2007

U.S. President George Bush says his plans for a missile defense system in Europe are no threat to Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin says it is the start of a new arms race. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from Germany, where the two leaders will discuss the issue, later Thursday, on the sidelines of the G8 summit.

President Bush says plans to base a small battery of American interceptor missiles in Poland do not threaten, Russia because the system is no match for Russia's arsenal of ballistic and cruise missiles.

"A missile defense system cannot stop multiple launch regimes. In other words, the facts are, is that, the fact is this: that you can't stop two, three, four, five missiles," Mr. Bush said.

President Putin says the missile defense plan is upsetting the strategic balance of the world and that he will not be responsible for retaliatory steps, if the plan goes through. Mr. Putin told reporters in Moscow Russia would respond by setting new missile targets in Europe.

Trying to ease tensions over the plan, President Bush says there would be no U.S. military response to such a retargeting of Russian missiles, because the two countries are not at war.

The president spoke following his last official meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who will leave office this month.

Missile defense will top the agenda of the president's meeting, later Thursday, with President Putin. Mr. Bush says he is looking forward to those talks and will again invite the Russian leader to take part in the missile defense system.

"Hopefully, the visit this afternoon will make it clear that we have no animosity. We bear no ill will," he said. "We're simply trying to deal with the true threats of the 21st Century. And, I repeat, Russia is not a threat. They're not a military threat. They're not something that we ought to be hyperventilating about. What we ought to be doing is figuring out ways to work together."

American officials say the missile defense plan is not about Russia, but is primarily aimed at stopping missiles from Iran.

Iranian officials say that is a joke, because the country does not have missiles capable of reaching Europe.

President Putin agrees, saying he sees no real threats from Iranian or North Korean missiles. He says the American plan could be an effort to undermine Russia's relations with Europe.

President Bush says it is best to anticipate what might happen and work to see that it does not, rather than being unprepared for what he calls rogue regimes with weapons mass destruction.

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