WARSAW, Poland — In the heart of the old Soviet bloc, President Bush chastised Russia on Friday for suspected nuclear commerce and encouraged the former Cold War rival to help “erase the false lines that have divided Europe.”
A day before his first meeting with Vladimir Putin, Bush urged the Russian president to forge new ties with the West and become “a partner and an ally.” Aides said Bush will seek to open talks between U.S. and Russian military leaders aimed at easing Moscow’s opposition to an American anti-missile shield.
“The Europe we are building must also be open to Russia,” Bush said at Warsaw University in the signature speech of his first overseas trip.
“We have a stake in Russia’s success – and we look for the day when Russia is fully reformed, fully democratic, and closely bound to the rest of Europe.”
In Moscow, Putin said he heads to Slovenia for Saturday’s summit “in a good mood” and eager for a face-to-face talk on missile defense.
“I would like to hear from the U.S. president in person his point of view ... and, for him, it would probably be interesting to hear from the Russian head of state Russia’s position on this problem,” Putin said, according to the news agency Interfax.
Bush’s daylong state visit to this former Warsaw Pact city, where Soviet troops once stood as a menace to the West, provided breathing room between the two chapters of his five-day trip. After haggling with NATO and European Union allies over global warming, trade and missile defense, Bush looked toward even tougher discussions with Putin.
“Europe’s great institutions – NATO and the European Union – can and should build partnerships with Russia and with all its countries that have emerged from the wreckage of the former Soviet Union,” Bush said.
Even as he reached out, differences with Moscow reared up.
“I am concerned about some reports of proliferation of weapons throughout Russia’s southern border ... and I’ll bring that subject up” at the summit, Bush said at joint news conference with Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski.
The United States suspects Russia of shipping high-grade aluminum – used in the production of bomb-grade uranium – to Iran, which National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice called “an impediment to full cooperation” with the United States.
Rice also said there were “troubling signs” that Russia, while making progress, is struggling with democratic principles such as a free press.
The criticism illustrated the pitfalls ahead as Bush tries to reach across the former Iron Curtain to a wary ex-rival.
In his address at the university library, a city landmark whose facade of giant copper plates includes fragments of scholarly writings, Bush sought to incorporate Russia into his vision of a Europe at peace “whole and free.”
Outside, some 200 demonstrators held banners, one of which read: “Bush to outer space; Missiles to dust bin.”
Bush borrowed language from his father, the former president, who visited Poland in 1989 as Eastern Europe shed the yoke of communism.
“Today, I have come to the center of Europe to speak of the future of Europe,” Bush said in a speech that cited historic figures from former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to Pope John Paul II, a Pole. “It is time to put talk of East and West behind us.”
“Our goal is to erase the false lines that have divided Europe for too long,” Bush said.
He hopes to start at Saturday’s summit. Although Bush does not carry with him any specific proposals, advisers said the summit could produce first steps toward a new framework for U.S.-Russian relations.
A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the president hopes for agreement to begin consultations among U.S. Cabinet secretaries and Russian ministers on what Bush calls “a new security framework.”
Under Bush’s plan, defense officials for both countries would begin talks on a number of issues, including a proposed missile shield.
As Bush reminded Russia of the economic benefits that come with democratic reforms, aides said the summit also may yield talks between U.S. and Russian economic ministers.
Bush hopes the summit will lead to the kind of military-to-military contacts that are routine between the U.S. and allies, the official said. Such contacts could produce deals on arms purchases, military aid and joint anti-missile exercises with Russia, easing Moscow opposition to his missile defense plans.
The Americans want to build a system capable of shooting down ballistic missiles fired from unpredictable nations such as North Korea, Iraq and Iran. Bush needs Russia’s acquiescence to his anti-missile system if he is to sell his own allies on the deal.
“Only together can we confront the emerging threats of a changing world,” he said.
Bush would be willing to offer to buy Russian-made S-300 surface-to-air missiles that America could use to defend Russia and Europe, the official said, but he wants defense ministers in both countries to consult on whether another missile system or approach would be better.
Putin and Bush meet again next month in Italy at a summit of industrialized powers, but the administration does not plan to have the new framework ready by then.
“We want Russia to be a partner and an ally, a partner in peace, a partner in democracy,” Bush said.