U.S. President George Bush and Polish President Lech Kaczynski say American plans to base missiles in Poland are no threat to Russia. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered to join that missile defense system after initially denouncing it as the start of a new arms race.
President Bush and President Kaczynski both sought to allay Russian concerns about the U.S. missile defense system which would build a radar base in the Czech Republic and install a battery of Interceptor missiles in Poland to guard against attack from Iran.
Speaking through a translator, President Kaczynski said Russia has nothing to fear from U.S. missiles in Poland.
"The system has no aggressive intentions," he said. "This is the plan which is to reinforce the protection of Europe against dangers which result from the fact that not all the countries of the contemporary world are responsible, although we do not mean Russia here. It is about other states," he said.
President Kaczynski and President Bush spoke to reporters in the Polish city Gdansk following the American leader's participation in a summit of the major industrialized nations in Germany.
President Bush says he appreciates the Polish leader's support for missile defense.
"We will negotiate a fair agreement that enhances the security of Poland and the security of the entire continent against rogue regimes that might be willing to try to blackmail free nations," he said. "That's the true threat of the 21st century."
President Bush and President Putin met Thursday at the G8 summit where the Russian leader made a surprise move to join the plan by offering the use of a Soviet-built radar station in Azerbaijan.
Speaking through a translator, President Putin said he has already discussed the idea with the President of Azerbaijan.
"The existing agreement with Azerbaijan makes it possible for us to do this," said Mr. Putin. "And the President of Azerbaijan stressed that he will be only too glad to contribute to the cause of global security and stability."
Mr. Putin told reporters in Germany Friday that the U.S. anti-missile system could be placed in Turkey or Iraq. He said use of the Azerbaijani radar will make the Polish and Czech deployment unnecessary.
If his offer is accepted, President Putin said he will not follow through on threats to retarget Russian missiles against Europe in response to U.S. plans.
President Bush said using the Soviet-era radar station is an interesting idea, and both men committed to having their respective Secretaries of State and Defense meet to discuss the details.
Following his stop in Poland President Bush left for Italy where he will meet separately Saturday with Pope Benedict and Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi.