President Bush: Good afternoon. President Putin and I have just concluded two hours of straightforward and productive meetings. We had a good discussion of our views of Russian-American relations, and of the changing world at the beginning of this new century.
Our countries have common interests and we share responsibilities. My meeting with President Putin today is an important step in building a constructive, respectful relationship with Russia — a relationship that has the potential to benefit not only our two countries, but also the world.
Russia is an important country, with vast potential. When Russia and the United States work together in a constructive way, we can make the world a safer and more prosperous place.
I enjoyed the opportunity to meet President Putin in person for the first time. I am convinced that he and I can build a relationship of mutual respect and candor. And I'm convinced that it's important for the world that we do so.
More than a decade after the Cold War ended it is time to move beyond suspicion and towards straight talk; beyond mutually assured destruction and toward mutually earned respect. As we work together to address the world as it is, not as it used to be, it is important that we not only talk differently, we also must act differently.
We have great opportunities to cooperate on economic, commercial, regional and security issues. President Putin and I have agreed to launch an extensive dialogue about a wide range of issues that we can constructively address together. We also discussed the importance of a sound investment climate to improve Russia's future economic prosperity.
I was so impressed that he was able to simplify his tax code in Russia, with a flat tax. I'm not so sure I'll have the same success with our Congress.
We must continue a dialogue, so I'm prepared to send both Secretary O'Neill and Secretary Evans to Moscow soon to further our discussions. I want to encourage Russian and American businesses to become more involved in our discussions, so that together, we can foster meaningful investments. President Putin agrees with this approach.
And we've agreed to launch regular detailed and serious consultations on the nature of our security relationship. I said to President Putin that we need a new approach for a new era, an approach that protects both our peoples and strengthens deterrence by exploring and developing our new attitudes towards defence and missile defences. I've directed Secretary of State Powell and Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld to work with their Russian counterparts, to begin discussing a new security framework.
I have invited President Putin to Washington this fall. He accepted. He invited me to Russia, and I accepted. And I look forward to the visit.
We also agreed to continue our cooperation and work toward common solutions on important regional issues, from the Balkans to Nagorno-Karabakh to Afghanistan. And we discussed our common interest in developing the energy resources of the Caspian Basin in a way that benefits all the countries of the region.
Respectful relations require honesty. And we did discuss areas where my country has differences with Russia — over Chechnya, and over media relations. I also expressed my hope that Russia will develop constructive relations with its neighbours, like Georgia, that are trying to find their own way in a challenging, but hopeful world.
This was a very good meeting. And I look forward to my next meeting with President Putin in July. I very much enjoyed our time together. He's an honest, straightforward man who loves his country. He loves his family. We share a lot of values. I view him as a remarkable leader. I believe his leadership will serve Russia well. Russia and America have the opportunity to accomplish much together; we should seize it. And today, we have begun.
And, finally, I'm especially pleased we're able to have this meeting in Slovenia, one of the success stories of Southeast Europe.
In my meetings today with the President and the Prime Minister, I reaffirmed America's support for Slovenia's integration with Europe and the Euro-Atlantic community. I especially thank the people of Slovenia, and I want to thank the leadership for such warm hospitality, and congratulate the people on the 10th anniversary of its independence on June the 25th.
Vladimir Putin: First of all I would like to confirm everything President Bush said when he characterized our meeting.
I can even add that I had expected a frank, open and trusting dialogue. But, as they say, in this case reality exceeded expectations. Because it was not only a trusting conversation, but I would say an exceedingly open and interesting conversation for me. The President as a historian displayed a very broad view of the problems.
We set aside our papers and had a very interesting and positive discussion of the past, present and future of our countries and the development of the situation in the world in the long term. It was an interesting conversation.
I think we have found a good basis for promoting cooperation and establishing a pragmatic partnership between Russia and the United States. And we reaffirmed our fundamental common position.
I want to recall what the President said just recently: Russia and the US are not enemies; they do not threaten each other, they may well be allies. Since the United States and the Russian Federation have stockpiled more nuclear weapons, more weapons of mass destruction than any other country, I believe that our countries bear a particular responsibility for preserving universal peace, for maintaining security, for building a new security architecture in the world. All that presupposes close bilateral and international cooperation to strengthen the foundations of security in the 21st century. Any unilateral actions are but a pretext for impeding the solution of the main problems of our time.
One of the central topics of our talk was strengthening strategic stability. We have compared our approaches. For me it was important to hear what the President of the United States thinks from him personally.
For my part, I set forth the Russian approach to this matter. There are differences in approaches and, of course, they cannot be overcome at once, but I am sure that a constructive dialogue lies ahead, and there is a desire to talk on this topic, to listen and to hear each other. I think it is very important.
The President and I have agreed to issue instructions to our defence ministers, foreign ministers and experts to continue the discussion without any delay.
Of course, we discussed some acute regional problems: the Middle East, Afghanistan and the Balkans. The discussion has shown that on the main problems of our time there is much more that unites us than divides us. The differences between the two countries on these key global problems are not irreconcilable. And I think it would be wrong to give prominence to these problems and to ignore the main assets and principles of our relations that form the basis of the relations between the United States and the Russian Federation.
We were one with Mr. President that the current state of Russian-American economic ties does not match the potential of our countries. The Russian government, the businessmen of both countries and the US Administration certainly can do more to keep up the momentum on both sides. And Mr. President has kindly agreed to give an additional impetus to American businessmen, and we will do our best to host a representative business delegation from America in the Russian Federation, especially since it will be led by one of the top Administration officials.
We have discussed many practical issues, we spoke about energy and the use of the Caspian resources. As you know, a new pipeline system is shortly to come online, which will carry energy resources from the Caspian via Novorossiisk and westwards. It is a joint project of two companies, a Russian and an American one. I am sure that it will not be the last project.
I would like to stress that all the questions discussed in Ljubljana will be subjects of further dialogue. We have indeed agreed to meet in Genoa, and to meet in Shanghai at the APEC Summit.
I am grateful to the President for the invitation to visit the United States and I will gladly do so, especially since he has promised to have me over at his ranch.
For my part I would be glad to entertain him at home, and not only for an official visit.
And the last thing. Over the past months, and indeed, on the eve of this meeting, there has been much talk about Russian-American relations being overloaded with problems and heading for some kind of a crisis. I think the character and the outcome of our talks with the US President today will put an end to this kind of talk. We see a clear positive outlook for our cooperation and we look forward to joint work in the interests of constructive, pragmatic and predictable relations between the United States and the Russian Federation.
And, of course, I cannot help extending words of thanks to our hosts who have not only provided conditions for our work and meetings, but created a very good and favourable moral atmosphere. Thank you very much.
Question: What is your position on the issue of NATO enlargement?
George Bush: There appears to be a uniform desire to expand NATO.
Question: Mr. Putin, you are going to Belgrade. Would you propose any practical solutions to the crisis in Yugoslavia?
Vladimir Putin: I understand, you mean the overall situation in the Balkans: Macedonia, Kosovo, etc.
We have our own idea about what is happening here and how we should act. We discussed it with the US President today. The main thing we should pay attention to is the need to set a firm and effective barrier in the way of any extremism, national intolerance and religious extremism. The people who try to solve by force problems of a national or religious character, however complicated they may be, do not deserve the support of the international community.
Some countries of the former Soviet Union (as you know, we have often mentioned it), for example, the Baltic States, violate human rights, above all the rights of the Russian-speaking population. For example, 40% of Latvia’s population is Russian speakers – a huge number of non-citizens. People are still unable to acquire citizenship. We are not sending weapons there. We are not backing or encouraging terrorism there. We are not inciting people to try to solve the issues of national and religious identity by force of arms.
I stress and insist that the people who are trying to use force do not merit the support of the international community. On the contrary, the international community must declare unequivocally that all those who try to do so will receive a fitting response. All these complicated problems can only be solved through negotiations. It is a complex process that requires patience; there is no other way.
Question: A question to both presidents. President Bush said he would go ahead with his missile defence plans basically with or without your blessing. So, Mr. Putin, are you unyielding in your opposition to his missile defence plan? Is there anything you can do to stop it? And to President Bush. Did President Putin ease your concern at all about the spread of nuclear technologies by Russia, and is this a man that Americans can trust?
Vladimir Putin: As regards the issue of missile defences, the official Russian position is known. I don’t think I need take time to reiterate it here. We believe that the 1972 ABM Treaty is the cornerstone of the architecture of international security today.
We believe there are elements that we share with our US partners. When we hear concerns about the future and the threats, we agree that we should think about them together.
But we also proceed on the basis that concerns and threats are not the same thing. Threats must be defined and located before deciding how to counter them. We believe that it is best done together. Judging by today’s dialogue, I have the impression that we may see a constructive development of the situation in that direction. At any rate, the President listens attentively to our arguments and hears them. I think it is up to the specialists to reveal a common platform and try to find joint solutions. As I have said, they will continue dialogue among themselves.
As for the problems of non-proliferation, I must say that in our opinion that topic is closely connected with the ABM Treaty because many other agreements in the world are hooked up on it, as it were, and some threshold countries, if the former agreements collapse, may rejoice and say: OK, we were threshold countries yesterday and nobody recognized us, but today we consider ourselves to be nuclear powers and be kind enough to recognize us as such. That too is a problem that we need to think about together.
As to whether Russia can be trusted, I am not going to answer that question. I can ask you the very same question.
George Bush: I will answer the question. I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul; a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country. And I appreciated so very much the frank dialogue.
There was no kind of diplomatic chit-chat, trying to throw each other off balance. There was a straightforward dialogue. And that's the beginning of a very constructive relationship. I wouldn't have invited him to my ranch if I didn't trust him. (Laughter)
Secondly, I appreciate the opportunity to be able to talk about a new relationship, and we will continue these dialogues. The basis for my discussion began with this simple premise: that Russia and the United States must establish a new relationship beyond that of the old Cold War mentality. The Cold War said loud and clear that we're opponents and that we bring peace through the ability of each of us to destroy each other.
Friends don't destroy each other. People who cooperate do not have a basis of peace in destruction. Our nations are confronted with new threats in the 21st century. Terror in the hands of what we call rogue nations is a threat. I expressed my concern, and so did the President, very openly, about nations on his border and nations that can't stand America's freedoms developing the capacity to hold each of us hostage. And he agreed.
I brought up concerns about Iran. And I'm hesitant to put words in the President's mouth, but he said he's concerned, as well — I think that accurately categorises your position — and we'll work together to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction. And I believe as we go down the road that we'll be able to develop a constructive relationship as to how to use our technologies and research and willingness to keep the peace, in a way that makes the world more peaceful.
I was so pleased that we were able to begin constructive, real dialogue between our Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld and Mr. Ivanov. These will be fruitful discussions, and I believe what people will see is a strategy, a joint strategy. The President is a history major, and so am I. And we remember the old history. It's time to write new history, in a positive and constructive way
Question: A question for both presidents, if I may. Mr. Bush has partially answered it. You discussed strategic security and talked about the future. In this connection could you comment on your discussion of the upcoming NATO enlargement? Thank you.
George Bush: Indeed, I spoke my mind that NATO enlargement is only reasonable. I said yesterday in Poland, I felt like a secure border for Russia, a border with safe and friendly nations, is positive. And I expressed my government's position very plainly. And the President, of course, had a reaction, which I'm sure he'll give you right now.
Vladimir Putin: I’ll tell you. Let me read to you from recently declassified documents. Actually, they have long been in the press, but the addendum documents attached had been secret. It reads: “copy declassified”, and it used to be “top secret”. It is a note of the Soviet Government of 1954 sent to NATO countries. It reads as follows: “Proceeding from the immutable principles of its peaceful foreign policy and seeking to reduce tensions in international relations, the Soviet government is ready to consider jointly with the interested governments the issue of the participation of the USSR in the North Atlantic Treaty.”
And here is the response: “The Soviet government has proposed… the proposals… were accompanied by the enlargement of the Atlantic Pact by admitting the Soviet Union to the North Atlantic Treaty. There is no need to stress the utterly unrealistic character of the proposal…”
About a year ago, I answered the question whether it was possible for Russia to accede to NATO. I said: why not? And immediately the former US Secretary of State, Ms Albright who was touring Europe said: “This is not on the agenda”.
You see, we do not regard NATO as a hostile organisation. Of course not. And I am very grateful to the President of the United States that these words have at long last been uttered from the US territory. It is very important for us. It is very precious when the President of a great power says that he wants to see Russia as a partner and perhaps even as an ally. I repeat, this is very valuable.
But if so, we ask ourselves: is it a military organisation? It is a military organisation. Do they want us there? They don’t. Is it advancing towards our borders? It is. What for?
This is what underlies our position and not a rejection of NATO as an organisation. But I think that considering the very positive mood that prevailed in our relations with the US President today, it can be the subject of a separate conversation. You know, Russia cooperates with NATO, and we have a permanent agreement, PJC. And there are other instruments. I don’t think one should unduly dramatize situation on this issue.
Question: Mr. President, did you offer President Putin any incentives in this conversation to ease his opposition to a U.S. missile defence plan?
And, President Putin, to follow up on your comments just now, does the simple fact of President Bush saying that Russia is not an enemy actually change your strategic or military planning?
President Bush: I offered something: Logic. And a hopeful tomorrow. I offered the opportunity, which the President is going to seize, for us, as leaders of great powers, to work together.
We have a unique opportunity to address the true threats of the 21st century — together. We have a great moment during our tenures to cast aside the suspicions and doubts that used to plague our nations. And I'm committed to do so.
I said in Poland, and I'll say it again: Russia is not the enemy of the United States. As a matter of fact, after our meeting today, I'm convinced it can be a strong partner and friend; more so than people could imagine.
The leader of Russia is working hard on behalf of his people to promote prosperity and peace. And I believe our nations can work together to achieve prosperity and peace not only within our respective countries, but around the world. I believe that.
And so we didn't have a bargaining session. We had a session of two men who have come to office for the right purpose: not only to represent our countries, but given our standing, our respective standings, to work together to deal with the threats of the 21st century: A threat of the 21st century is energy. A threat of the 21st century is poverty. A threat of the 21st century is the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
And as the President said to me clearly, he said that, you're not the only nation that cares about weapons of mass destruction; we care. And we have an opportunity to do that. We have an opportunity to reject extremists that could threaten our respective nations and threaten our alliances. And we will do so. We will do so.
And today has been a very constructive day. Everybody is trying to read body language — mark me down as very pleased with the progress and the frank discussion. We will meet again in July, then later in the fall. Then we'll have the great Crawford, Texas Summit. And I believe that people who watch carefully our relationship will see that it grows and emerges. It starts with trust. Ron asked a great question: can I trust him? And I can. And from that basis we can begin a very fruitful relationship.
Well, first of all, our relationship is larger than just security relationships. It's bigger than figuring out how to deal with the ABM Treaty, it's much bigger than that. It deals with two leaders who share values.
The President told me something very interesting. He said, I read that you named your daughters after your mother and your mother-in-law. And I said, yes, I'm a great diplomat, aren't I? (Laughter.) And he said, I did the same thing. (Laughter.) I said, Mr. President, you're a fine diplomat, as well. We share our love for our families. We've got common interests. And from that basis we will seize the moment to make a difference in the world. That's why he ran for the presidency, and it's why I ran for the presidency.
This is not a bargaining session. The President didn't say, you know, if you do this, I'll do that. It's bigger than that. It's a bigger relationship than that, and it's important to understand that.
Question: Will you answer my question, President Putin? The simple fact that President Bush says that Russia is no longer an enemy, will it change your strategic planning and the approach to the ABM problem? Mr. Putin, what is your answer to the question?
Vladimir Putin: It is not a question. It looks like an interview. But I’ll answer all the same.
It is not for nothing that I said that it is important for us. And I think that in tackling this very complicated problem we will proceed from the mutual understanding that we are partners. We have not just agreed that our experts will meet and exchange opinions. We have agreed that they would discuss concrete issues of concern to the two sides, specific issues. I am not ready to discuss it publicly, but it is all about specific issues.
Besides, I must say that Russia and the US have signed two protocols on non-strategic missile defence, in New York and Helsinki, I believe. And that is also a separate issue. Experts must determine the threats. And secondly, they should identify what prevents us from using all our potential to neutralize these threats. I think a common approach can be worked out.
Question: A question for both presidents with your permission. Going back to the trade and economic ties between our countries. When can one expect a visit of American businessmen to Moscow? And do you have any plans to create or recreate an intergovernmental commission or another body to promote economic ties between Russia and the US? Thank you.
George Bush: I'll talk to the Secretary of Commerce as soon as I get back and tell him of our agreement and get him moving. Sometimes I worry a little bit about commissions. If commissions exist just to exist, then I don't think it's fruitful. If commissions exist in order to stimulate action, then perhaps.
Let me say one other area where the United States is in agreement with Russia. We think Russia ought to be admitted into the World Trade Organization. And we'll work toward that end. The Russian President has expressed a desire to join the WTO, and I think it makes sense. I think that will help a lot. And there's a lot of areas in our business relationships.
I reminded the President that oftentimes, people speak in terms of — they say Russia is a country of great resources, only referring to the energy resources, the mining resources, the timber resources. That's true. But Russia has got a resource that's invaluable in this new era, and that's brainpower. Russia's got great mathematicians and engineers who can just as easily participate in the high-tech world as American engineers and American mathematicians. And that's an area of great interest to me, and it's an area of great interest to the President. It's an area where we can begin a fruitful dialogue.
The deployment of capital is something that's very important to Russia; it's important to our businessmen. The President understands it's important to have rule of law, a reasonable tax system, transparency in the economy. And he's working toward that, and I am grateful. Our businessmen and our Secretary of Commerce will hear that when they travel to Russia.
Vladimir Putin: You know, I agree with the President that it does not always pay to overload our relations with bureaucratic structures and commissions. The main thing is to create conditions for an effective conduct of business.
We know President Bush’s plans regarding the tax sphere and some other proposed economic measures in the US. For our part, we have a lot to do to make the Russian economy more attractive for foreign investors. Having said that, the Americans are leading among foreign investors here. Naturally, in the light of the energy problems in the world as a whole American business is showing an interest in this sphere. We are also aware of the President’s plans in the field of nuclear energy. I think there, too, we have something to discuss and there is mutual room for activity. We have good cooperation between uranium processing companies and so on. We have good cooperation in space. I think Russia and the US take much of the credit for the existence and successful functioning of the International Space Station. And there are many other common areas. As to when the businessmen will arrive, it depends on the American side. We would be glad to host them at any convenient time, as they say in such cases.