US-Russian Tension Overshadows G-8 Bush Says Russia has 'Derailed' Democratic Reforms

On the eve of the G-8 summit, US President George W. Bush has told Russian President Vladimir Putin he has nothing to fear from the planned US missile shield in eastern Europe. But his statement that Moscow has "derailed" democratic reforms isn't likely to break the new ice between Russia and the US.

US President George W. Bush, said in a speech in the Czech capital Prague on Tuesday that Russia shouldn't fear the planned missile shielddesigned to stop nuclear attacks from Iran or North Korea.

"The Cold War is over. It ended," Bush said at the medieval Prague Castle, where he met with Czech President Vaclav Klaus and Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek."My message will be: 'Vladimir -- I call him Vladimir -- you shouldn't fear a missile defense system. As a matter of fact, why don't you cooperate with us on a missile defense system?'" Bush said.

Putin views the shield plan as a threat to Russia's national security and warned that Russia would aim missiles at Europe if the United States went ahead with the plan.

Despite his attempts at reconciliation over the missile system, Bush risked fueling tensions further by saying Moscow had "derailed" once-promising democratic reforms.

"In Russia, reforms that once promised to empower citizens have been derailed, with troubling implications for democratic development," Bush told a democracy conference in Prague organized by former dissidents.

He also criticized China for not doing more on the political front. "China's leaders believe that they can continue to open the nation's economy without also opening its political system," Bush said.

The United States has strong working relationships with Russia and China, he said. "Our friendship with them is complex. In the areas where we share mutual interests, we work together. In other areas, we have strong disagreements."

Bush added: "Part of a good relationship is the ability to talk openly about our disagreements. So the United States will continue to build our relationships with these countries, and we will do it without abandoning our principles or our values."

Tension over the missile shield and US criticism of what it sees as moves to curb freedoms in Russia are overshadowing the G-8 summit in the German Baltic resort of Heiligendamm which starts on Wednesday.

Bush flies to Germany later on Tuesday. He will hold a one-on-one meeting with Putin on the sidelines of the gathering and is to host him at his family's oceanfront estate in Kennebunkport, Maine next month.

Bush will stop in Poland after the summit and Albania and Bulgaria after that.

Graphic: How the US missile defense system works

Graphic: How the US missile defense system works

Bush had arrived in the Czech Republic on Monday evening amid demonstrations against his missile shield plans in the center of Prague.

Czech newspaper Blesk published an open letter to Bush saying: "Dear Mr. President, we welcome you to Prague. But don't expect anyone to be looking forward to meeting you. You come to defend your radar system which most Czechs don't want." Opinion polls show 60 percent of Czechs are against the shield.



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