Bush, Putin Aim To Mend Relations

Russian President Vladimir Putin, carrying flowers, greets first lady Laura Bush and President Bush as he arrives in Kennebunkport, Maine. Protesters gathered nearby as the presidents began their talks.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, carrying flowers, greets first lady Laura Bush and President Bush as he arrives in Kennebunkport, Maine. Protesters gathered nearby as the presidents began their talks. (By Gerald Herbert -- Associated Press)
By Peter Baker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 2, 2007

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine, July 1 -- Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived here Sunday for a patch-up session at the Bush family compound as war protesters filled this resort town to demand the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

Putin, the first world leader invited by Bush to stay with him at Walker's Point, the oceanfront estate built by Bush's great-grandfather, headed for a 24-hour visit intended to cool recent tensions in U.S.-Russian relations over issues such as missile defense and Kosovo independence. Although aides predicted no breakthroughs, there was hope for disagreeing more agreeably.

Neither president made public comments after Putin's

afternoon arrival, but Putin said before leaving Moscow that he maintains "good and even friendly relations" with Bush.

"Politics, like sport, is an arena of competition," he said

Sunday, according to the Interfax news agency. "But it's important that these competitions abide by the set rules and are based on respect for each other's interests."

Hosting the meeting was former president George H.W. Bush, who hoped the relaxed environment would foster accommodation.

"We want it to be like it was when I had Francois Mitterrand, the president of France, here," he told WGME-TV in Portland. "You sit down, no neckties, sit in a beautiful house looking over the sea and talk frankly without a lot of straphangers and note-takers and people that have separate agendas handing you notes."

As soon as Putin arrived at the estate, the two Bushes took him for a boat ride. They then hosted a lobster and swordfish dinner, which was also attended by first lady Laura Bush and Barbara Bush, as well as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley and their Russian counterparts.

"They were chatting in an extremely friendly atmosphere," Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said afterward.

Hundreds of protesters marched for the second summer to the security checkpoint near Walker's Point. "Hey, hey, ho, ho, Bush and Cheney have got to go," they chanted. Many carried signs advocating impeachment, and some rolled a casket with a mock Statue of Liberty inside. Others had handmade signs with slogans such as "Drop Bush Not Bombs" and "GWB is a WMD." A few carried Russian-language signs calling for peace in Chechnya.

"I'm angry about what's happening," said Donna Polhamus, 62, a librarian from New Hampshire. "I'm mad there are so many people dying, Americans and Iraqis. . . . It's not a good war. We don't belong there. I feel it's a war for oil."

The war protesters passed about 20 counterdemonstrators holding U.S. flags and signs saying "Support Our Troops." One shouted: "Go to Cuba! Go to North Korea! But don't bother our troops, they're doing God's work."

Some anti-Bush protesters

responded by chanting, "Support our troops, bring them home."


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