Beginning of Meeting with U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates 2007-04-23 20:58:18 The Kremlin, Moscow President Vladimir Putin: Mr Defence Secretary, colleagues, It is a great pleasure for us to welcome you to Moscow. I am very pleased that you have accepted the invitation I made in Munich, and I am also very happy that President Bush has reacted so speedily and sent you to Moscow. By the way, I am to speak with him on the telephone after our meeting today. I will be able to pass on to him the best wishes from his defence secretary in Moscow. I am very pleased that such a busy political season is opening now in Russian-U.S. relations. [U.S. Secretary of State] Ms Rice will be visiting Moscow soon. Then I will be meeting with the U.S. President at the G8 summit in Germany. We also have other meetings planned, including within the Russia-NATO Council. I know too, that you have a very busy schedule here in Moscow. We are very happy to see you. Welcome! U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates: Thank you, Mr President, for your invitation to come to Moscow. I spoke with President Bush yesterday before flying out from the United States. He asked me to pass on to you his best wishes. When I left, I did not know that you would have the chance to inform so swiftly on how my visit here is going. It has been almost fifteen years since I was last in Moscow. The changes that have taken place have made a huge impression on me. Russian-U.S. relations are very important. I think that the upcoming meetings that await us demonstrate this importance and the need to develop our relations on the basis of equality and mutual respect. Together we can achieve much indeed.