As relations between the United States and Russia sink to what Reuters calls "a post-Cold War low," George W. Bush was asked this morning whether there was anything more he could say to persuade Vladimir Putin not to retarget Russian rockets in response to plans to install a U.S.-built missile shield in eastern Europe.
Here's how he replied:
"Well, I mean, the -- I'm looking forward to my meeting with Vladimir Putin. A missile defense system cannot stop multiple launch regimes. In other words, the facts are, is that -- the fact is this: that you can't stop two, three, four, five missiles. And, therefore, I will explain to him once again that a missile defense system is aimed at a rogue regime that may try to hold Russia and/or Europe and the United States hostage. I think the best thing for me to do is just talk about the facts.
"Secondly, it is important for Russia and Russians to understand that I believe the Cold War ended, that Russia is not an enemy of the United States, that there's a lot of areas where we can work together -- for example, in Iran or areas of proliferation. There's a lot of constructive work we can do.
"And so I'm looking forward to my dialogue with Vladimir Putin this afternoon. It's hopefully an attempt to find other areas where we can work together and make sure our rhetoric doesn't cause concern in our respective countries and here in Europe. He can be -- he doesn't have to be viewed as an enemy, see. And the missile defense system should say, 'We can work together.' I actually think that Russia ought to participate with us. If it's aimed at dealing with a rogue regime, then it makes sense for Russia to say, 'Let's join, let's share technologies.'
"And so I will reiterate the proposal we made, and that's, send your generals to the United States, send your scientists to the United States, and we'll share -- share our vision. And hopefully that will help. Hopefully, the visit this afternoon will make it clear that we have no animosity, we bear no ill will. We're simply trying to deal with the true threats of the 21st century. And I repeat, Russia is not a threat. They're not a military threat. They're not something that we ought to be hyperventilating about. What we ought to be doing is figuring out ways to work together."