During a joint news conference in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin spoke with a bit of nostalgia as they looked back at their stewardship of U.S.-Russian relations during the past seven years. VOA Correspondent Peter Fedynsky has this report from Sochi.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he enjoyed his meetings with the American president since they first met in Ljubljana, Slovenia in 2001. The Russian leader characterized their personal ties as open and sincere, saying they allowed for direct discussion of international and bilateral issues.
Over all, says Mr. Putin, cooperation in the struggle against international terrorism, against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and missile technology, international corruption and drug trafficking form a promising basis not only for bilateral relations, but is also an important factor of international security.
Mr. Putin agrees with President Bush who said that despite disagreements, neither side views the other as an enemy. The American leader said both men spent a lot of time in their relationship trying to get rid of the Cold War.
"It is over. It ended. And the fundamental question in this relationship is could we work together to put the Cold War in the past? And I fully recognize that people in Russia and America still think the Cold War exists," said Mr. Bush.
Mr. Putin said both leaders were able to conduct relations without allowing disagreements on any given issue to damage the overall relationship. The most difficult issues on their agenda remain NATO expansion and the deployment of missile defense system in Central Europe. But they agree on Russian entry into the World Trade Organization.
In this connection, says the Kremlin leader, we are counting on the United States to lift the Jackson-Vanik amendment and also to grant Russia normalized trade relations. Mr. Bush called for the U.S. Congress to lift the Soviet-era amendment, which tied trade with Moscow to its human-rights record.
Following his meeting in Sochi with Russian president-elect Dmitri Medvedev, Mr. Bush was asked whether he was able to judge his soul as he did Mr. Putin's after their first meeting 22 summits ago in Ljubljana. Mr. Bush said that Dmitri Medvedev seems forthright, but is not yet president.
"He is taking his time, he is studying, he is preparing to assume office, but he is not going to act like a president, nor assume presidential duties until he gets to be the president," said Mr. Bush. "So you can write down, 'I was impressed."'
Mr. Bush said he is looking forward to working with Mr. Medvedev after President Putin leaves office on May 7. A new U.S. leader will assume the White House on January 20.