President Bush will get another chance to be -- well, "presidential", when he meets Russian President Vladimir Putin July 1 and 2 in an attempt to soothe rocky relations with Russia.
The session comes at a time when many experts say relations between the two nations are at their lowest point since the Soviet era.
On Tuesday, Putin warned that the planned U.S. missile shield for Europe would turn the region into a "powder keg."
Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates have all tried to reassure the Russians that the missile system is aimed at preventing attack by a rogue state against the United States or Europe.
Washington and Moscow are also at odds over Kosovo, a province of Serbia that is under U.N. and NATO administration. Russia has called a Western-backed draft U.N. resolution that would endorse supervised independence for the Serbian province unacceptable.
Bush and Putin will discuss Iran, civil nuclear cooperation, missile defense and other issues, Snow said.
"Cooperation between the United States and Russia is important in solving regional conflicts, stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction and combatting terrorism and extremism," Snow explained in announcing the visit.
Putin will have the opportunity to look Bush in the eyes -- the question is, will he believe what Bush tells him. It all comes down to just that -- trust -- and we are running huge deficits in the international "trust" markets.
Russia views U.S. activity in its former sphere of influence with growing suspicion. Earlier this month, in a speech, Putin denounced "disrespect for human life, claims to global exclusiveness and dictate, just as it was in the time of the Third Reich."
The Kremlin insisted that Putin had not meant to compare the Bush administration's policies with those of Nazi Germany, but the reference appeared to highlight Russia's annoyance at what it sees as U.S. domination of world affairs.
Soon after, in Moscow, Rice won agreement from Putin to tone down Russian tough talk in an effort to improve strained ties. Neither side, though, gave ground on their disagreements over missile defense and Kosovo.
Putin's "tough talk" included the statement three weeks ago by Putin where he labeled Bush as "hitler-esque" --
Putin's statement at a Victory Day parade on Red Square on Wednesday was artfully phrased to be both blunt and vague -- but political observers have little doubt he was criticizing the United States for "disrespect for human life, claims to global exclusiveness and dictate, just as it was in the time of the Third Reich."
While Putin didn't name any particular country in the speech marking the 1945 defeat of Nazi Germany, the remarks echoed his increasingly strong criticism of the perceived U.S. domination in global affairs.
At least Bush is taking step to improve relations with Russia -- and I give him credit for that. I just don't hold out much hope that he has what it takes to be successful in this diplomatic effort.
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