PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I wanted to congratulate the President for being the only person that caught a fish. A fine catch. Secondly, I welcome you to my family home.
And we had a good, casual discussion on a variety of issues. You know, through the course of our relationship there have been times when we've agreed on issues and there's been times when we haven't agreed on issues. But one thing I've found about Vladimir Putin is that he is consistent, transparent, honest and is an easy man to discuss our opportunities and problems with.
We talked about nuclear security and made great strides in setting a foundation for future relations between the United States and Russia in dealing with the nuclear security issues. We talked about our bilateral relations, we talked about the relations with countries like Iran and North Korea. We had a very long, strategic dialogue that I found to be important, necessary and productive.
And so I welcome you, Vladimir. Thanks for coming.
President Vladimir Putin: I would like to congratulate us on our good work.
But, first of all, I would like to thank our hosts for their invitation and of course President Bush for his invitation. We really did do well fishing this morning. We caught one fish, but that was a team effort. And the leader of the team was the captain of our fishing schooner, the 42nd President of the United States.
As far as negotiations are concerned, they really were very meaningful. We discussed basically the entire range of both bilateral issues and current international concerns. George has mentioned virtually all the issues that we touched on. I was pleased to note that we are looking for points of contact in our positions and we often discovered them. And of course I'm very grateful to the Bush family for the very warm atmosphere that characterized this meeting and our exchange of views.
I believe that we can all learn something from the older generation, because the attitude shown both to me and to the members of our delegation went far beyond the limits of an official exchange. And, besides, we have had an opportunity to see this part of the United States. It is a fantastic place, and we’ve felt the warmth and the very positive attitude of the people here. I want to take this opportunity to convey to them our gratitude and very best wishes.
By the way, we did throw back the fish we caught.
Question: Were you successful in getting President Putin's support for tougher sanctions against Iran, for example, concerning cargo inspections?
President Bush: We spent a lot of time talking about the Iranian issue, and we both agree – excuse me, go ahead. We spent a lot of time talking about the Iranian issue. I am concerned about the Iranians' attempt to develop the technologies, know-how to develop a nuclear weapon. The President shares that – I'm a little hesitant to put words in his mouth, but I think he shares that same concern. After all, this is an issue we've been talking about for about six years.
And I have come to the conclusion that when Russia and America speaks with, you know, along the same lines, it tends to have an effect. And, therefore, I appreciate very much the Russian attitude in the United Nations. I have been counting on the Russians’ support to send a clear message to the Iranians, and that support and that message is a strong message, and, hopefully, we'll be able to convince the regime that we have no problems with the people in Iran, but we do have a problem with a regime that is in defiance of international norms. And so we discussed a variety of ways to continue sending a joint message.
And, by the way, one other issue that I didn't mention in my opening my comments that I think you'll find interesting is that President Putin proposed a regional approach to missile defense; that we ought to work together bilaterally, as well as work through the Russia-NATO Council. And I'm in strong agreement with that concept. We're close on recognizing that we've got to work together to send a common message.
President Putin: So far we have managed to work within the framework of the Security Council, and I am sure that this work will continue. Recently, we've had some indications that Iran is willing to cooperate with the IAEA. Mr Solana is also taking an active part in the discussions with the Iranians. This too represents a significant contribution to a comprehensive resolution of the problem.
Question: At [the G8 summit in] Heiligendamm Mr Putin made what you described as an interesting proposal for strategic stability and anti-ballistic missile cooperation between Russia and the United States. How will your cooperation in this matter proceed? What role will the Europeans play in this? And if there is no breakthrough, maybe it’s time for a pause?
President Bush: Thanks. It's more than an interesting idea, it's an idea that we're following up on through consultative meetings, which we've started. And as I told you, the President made a very – I thought a very constructive and bold, strategic move, and that is why don't we broaden the dialogue and include Europe, through NATO and the Russia-NATO Council – I don't know if want to expand on that, or not.
President Putin: Is this a question for me as well? As President Bush has already said, we do support the idea of continuing consultations on this point. At the same time, we believe that the number of participants in this consultation could be expanded by including the European countries who are interested in resolving the issue. This could be done by using the forum of the Russia-NATO Council.
But our proposal does not stop there. We are proposing the creation of an information exchange centre in Moscow. We agreed on that a few years ago and the time has come to put this decision into practice. And there’s more: a comparable center could be established in one of the European capitals, in Brussels, for example. This would be a self-contained system that would work in real time. We believe that there would then be no need to install any more facilities in Europe – I mean those facilities proposed for the Czech Republic and the missile base in Poland.
And we are prepared to include in this project the Gabala radar station we rent in Azerbaijan. And if necessary, we are prepared to modernise it. And if that is not enough, we would be prepared to commit a new radar installation in the south of Russia for this common early warning system.
Such cooperation I believe would bring about a major change in Russian-American relations regarding security. In fact, this would lead to the gradual development of a strategic partnership in the area of security.
As for the Europeans, they have to make their own choice on this matter. Every country will have to decide whether it wants to be part of the system or not. But it should be clear even to the layman that if a country decides not to participate in such a strategic partnership, then this will have inevitable political effects and, in the final analysis, economic effects as well. All things considered, I'm confident that we shall have partners in Europe committed to the system.
Question: Mr. President six years ago, you said of President Putin that you had had a glimpse of his soul. Do you still trust him and how are your political relations developing? And, President Putin, do you appreciate advice from Washington?
President Bush: Here's the thing when you're dealing with a world leader, you wonder whether or not he's telling the truth or not. I've never had to worry about that with Vladimir Putin. Sometimes he says things I don't want to hear, but I know he's always telling me the truth. And you don't have to guess about his opinions, which makes it a lot easier to do – to find common ground.
And so you ask, do I trust I him? Yes, I trust him. Do I like everything he says? No. And I suspect he doesn't like everything I say. But we're able to say it in a way that shows mutual respect.
Take missile defense. He just laid out a vision. I think it's very sincere. I think it's innovative. I think it's strategic. But as I told Vladimir, I think that the Czech Republic and Poland need to be an integral part of the system. And the only way I know how to find common ground on complicated issues is to share my thoughts, and that's what he does with me. And so I've had a very constructive relationship.
Obviously, you know – I'll let him talk about his view of democracy, but I will tell you, at the G8 in St. Petersburg, he did a very interesting thing. You might remember the dinner when you said, anybody who has got any doubts about democracy, ask me questions. And I remember part of my discussions with him about whether or not the — you know, how — the relations between the government and the press, you'll be amazed to hear. He strongly defends his views, and you can listen to him yourself, right now. But ours is a relationship where I feel very comfortable bringing up and asking him why he's made decisions he's made.
President Putin: When we talk about our common democratic values, we are guided by what is important for us and for our partners. In the last 15 years, Russia has undergone a very important transformation. It has to do with changes in the political system and in the economic system as well. Of course it has been very difficult to resolve the resulting social problems.
All of these taken together manifest themselves in the construction of our new democratic society. Even in the so-called stable democracies, we see a large number of the same problems that we have in Russia. It has to do with relations with the mass media, with respect for human rights, and the right to a life beyond the control of the state.
If you look at how Larry King tortured the former director of the CIA, Mr Tenet, you will know that there are problems here as well. Unfortunately, I cannot repeat here everything that was said in that interview. We have common problems, and we are prepared to listen to each other. The only thing that we can never accept is that these things be used as a means of putting pressure on us, of interfering in our internal affairs. That is unacceptable.
In my frank exchanges with President Bush we always raise these issues, and he tells me what in he thinks is important in regards to Russia and what is happening there. One might say that I don’t always agree with him, but he never talks to down to me. We always talk to each other as friends.
Question: Mr President, first of all, how would you judge the relations between Russia and the U.S. right now? Are they in crisis or not? And what is the legacy you will be leaving for your successor? This is your last year as President. Is this your last meeting with President Bush, or will you be meeting again after this?
President Putin: I do believe that relations between us are developing normally, quite well, and that they are getting stronger. Relations between Russia and the United States are entirely different from those between the Soviet Union and the United States. And we are not lining each other up in the sights of our weapons, we’re not enemies. In this, I completely agree with President Bush.
As for the future, as I already mentioned, we are now discussing the possibility of strengthening our relations, of raising them to an entirely new level of trust. This would involve discussing very sensitive issues related to international security, including, of course, the missile defense issue. If this happens, then I want to draw your attention to what would amount to a watershed in the relations between our countries. They would gradually take on a strategic character, because this would mean a completely new sort of relationship in the area of international security.
This would mean an increase in our political cooperation and, in the end, would affect our economic cooperation. In effect, we can now say that the cards have been dealt and that the game can now begin. I very much hope that we are playing the same game.
President Bush: I think we'll see each other in Australia. Secondly, I know we'll be talking on the phone, because there's a lot of issues that we are working together on, which is part of the legacy of this relationship, and that is that it's in the U.S. interest to keep close relations with Russia; and that when it comes to confronting real threats, such as nuclear proliferation or the threat of radicalism and extremism, Russia is a good, solid partner.
Russia has made some amazing progress in a very quick period of time. One of the first conversations I had with Vladimir Putin was about Soviet-era debt. This is a country with no debt. It's got solid reserves. It's a significant international player. It's got a growing middle class.
For those old Russian hands who remember what it was like, there's an amazing transformation taking place. Is it perfect from the eyes of Americans? Not necessarily. Is the change real? Absolutely. And it's in our interests – in the U.S. interests to have good, solid relations with Russia. And that's what Vladimir and I have worked hard to achieve.
And we're going to go continue those relations with a lunch. So thanks for coming.
President Putin: Of course we will continue to interact in the future. Today's fishing expedition demonstrated that there’s a lot we can do together.