BMD row backdrop of Bush-Putin meet

May 30, 2007 at 1:40 PM
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WASHINGTON, May 30 (UPI) -- The planned meeting in July between President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin comes at a critical juncture in U.S.-Russian relations.

The Kremlin, often with China, has repeatedly played spoiler to U.S. efforts for tougher sanctions against Iran for failure to stop its gamesmanship on development of nuclear weapons.

It also vociferously opposes U.S. plans to deploy parts of an anti-ballistic missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland, former satellite states of the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Russia says the ABM shield is a threat to its security despite repeated U.S. assurances to the contrary.

On Tuesday, in a ratcheting up of tensions over the issue, Moscow tested new intercontinental ballistic missiles it said could penetrate any U.S. anti-missile shield, the placement of which in Eastern Europe would turn the continent into a "powder keg."

"Our position has always been, missile defense in Europe has always been designed to assist all nations, including the Russians, against external threats," White House spokesman Tony Snow said Wednesday.

We will continue to make it, he added.

The White House said the meeting would take place July 1-2 at the Maine vacation home of President Bush's father, former President George Herbert Walker Bush.

In addition to missile defense, the two would also talk turkey on Iran and civilian nuclear cooperation.

"The visit is part of the intensive bilateral dialogue with President Putin," Snow said. "Cooperation between the United States and Russia is important in solving regional conflicts, stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and combating terrorism and extremism."

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