Bush Seeks to Reassure Russia on Arms, E.U. on Warming

By Peter Baker and Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, May 1, 2007

President Bush tried to reassure Russia yesterday that his proposed new missile defense system represents no threat and tried to reassure Europe that he understands climate change does.

Kicking off a week heavy on international diplomacy, Bush met with visiting European Union leaders and labored to address transatlantic concerns on a host of issues. But he refused to yield in his escalating confrontation with Moscow over arms control and offered no movement toward Europe's position on global warming.

Bush said Russia should not view the United States as "an antagonistic force," despite plans to deploy a limited missile defense system in Eastern Europe and repeated longstanding invitations to Moscow to join the project. Russian President Vladimir Putin suspended compliance last week with the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe to protest U.S. plans.

"Our intention, of course, is to have a defense system that prevents rogue regimes from holding Western Europe and/or America to hostage," Bush said. "Evidently, the Russians view it differently." It is in Russia's interest, he said, "to have a system that could prevent a future Iranian regime, for example, from launching a weapon."

Bush and the Europeans papered over differences on global warming. Bush promoted his plan to expand alternative fuels and raise vehicle mileage standards, but resisted European-style limits on carbon dioxide emissions. "Each country needs to recognize that we must reduce our greenhouse gasses and deal, obviously, with their own internal politics to come up with an effective strategy that, hopefully, when added together, that it leads to a real reduction," he said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the E.U. president, who wanted more aggressive action, tempered any disappointment. "We should be clear about the glass being half full instead of half empty," she said. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso of Portugal went further, praising Bush for recognizing that global warming is serious. "To be very frank," he said, "it's better than what I was planning. I think it was real progress."

In a separate interview, Benita Ferrero-Waldner of Austria, the E.U. commissioner for external relations, said the tone of Bush's comments was important. "There was, I would say, a first opening from the American side," she said. "It is a consciousness that indeed climate change exists, and the question has to be tackled urgently and globally."

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