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Bush, Putin Meet on Sidelines of G8 Summit - 2002-06-27

President Bush met Thursday on the sidelines of the G8 summit in Canada with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The session provided even more proof of the dramatic transformation of relations between their two countries.

The most noteworthy thing about this meeting was how ordinary it all seemed, just another chance for conversation between the leaders of two friendly nations.

Appearing relaxed and at ease, Presidents Bush and Putin sat in chairs that almost touched, with only a top aide or two nearby.

They took a few questions from reporters. All were about the issues of the day, from a legal controversy in the United States over the formal oath to the American flag, to corporate fraud, to the European response to Mr. Bush's Mideast peace proposals.

No one asked about arms control, or possible sources of tension between the two countries, matters that would have been center stage not long ago. Instead, the talk focused on joint concerns and common threats, with Mr. Bush referring to the Russian leader as a strong ally in the war against terror.

"President Putin has been a stalwart in the fight against terror. He understands the threat of terror, because he has lived through terror. He has seen terror firsthand, and he knows the threat of terrorism," Mr. Bush said.

President Putin returned the compliament. Speaking through a translator, he said he welcomes the firm stand taken by the Bush administration.

"We welcome his courage and consistency with which he persists in his policies, in spite of any elements that interfere with that. And we expect that our interaction will have, will make a significant and decisive contribution to the elimination of terrorism worldwide," Mr. Putin said.

The meeting in Canada came just one month after their summit in Russia. The highlight of the president's visit to Moscow was the signing of a new agreement slashing the number of strategic nuclear warheads in their respective arsenals by two-thirds over ten years.