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Bush to Mark Anniversary of End of World War II in Europe

George W. Bush
President Bush leaves for Europe Friday where he will take part in ceremonies marking the end of the Second World War in Europe.

U.S. National Security Adviser Steve Hadley says the president will pay tribute to the sacrifices of the past while making clear the challenges of the future.

"The purpose of the trip really is two-fold: to honor the shared sacrifice of millions of Americans, Europeans and others to defeat tyranny and at the same time to mark the growth of democracy throughout Europe and the world more generally," he explained.

Mr. Bush will visit four countries in five days, beginning with Latvia, where he will have a working lunch with the Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian heads of state. Mr. Hadley says President Bush will emphasize that the strong U.S. alliance with the Baltic states is built on a shared commitment to the values of democracy, rule of law and tolerance.

He says all three states are demonstrating their value as allies by working with the United States to advance freedom in Belarus, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

After Latvia, President Bush travels to the Netherlands, where he will take part in ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the defeat of Nazism. He will meet with veterans and make remarks at the Netherlands American Cemetery, where more than 8,000 Americans are buried.

President Bush will be among more than 50 heads of state at a parade in Moscow's Red Square Monday marking the end of the Second World War in Europe.

It is a ceremony that the leaders of Estonia and Lithuania are refusing to attend because the end of that war was also the beginning of five decades of Soviet rule in the Baltics.

President Bush acknowledged that occupation in a letter to the Latvian president, but Russian officials say Soviet troops liberated the Baltics from Nazism and were not an occupying force.

It's one of several differences between Washington and Moscow that are likely to come up on this trip, including Russian sales of arms to Syria and nuclear material to Iran.

In his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr. Hadley says President Bush will continue to stress U.S. concerns about democracy in Russia.

But Mr. Hadley dismissed suggestions that President Bush is singling out the Russian leader, saying it is a message for a broader audience as well.

"The president will also lay out a broader concept of freedom and democracy, pointing out that it is more than just elections, but also includes a commitment to building an open and inclusive society which embraces its minorities and provides protections for minorities and individual rights through rule of law and strong independent institutions," he said.

After Russia, President Bush visits the former Soviet republic of Georgia, where he is expected to address more than 100,000 people in Tblisi's Freedom Square.

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