Accessibility links

Breaking News

Bush Arrives in Latvia for Start of European Trip

President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush board Air Force One, Friday
President Bush is in Latvia at the start of a five-day, four-nation trip commemorating the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe.

President Bush begins his day at the Riga Castle, where he will receive Latvia's highest honor, the Three Star Order, First Class.

After a meeting with President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, Mr. Bush will lay a wreath at Latvia's Freedom Monument, and hold a roundtable with educators and business and religious leaders.

He will then have a working lunch with President Vike-Freiberga, Estonian President Arnold Ruutel and Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus. All four leaders will then take questions from reporters.

Much of the Latvian capital will be shut down during the president's visit. The city council approved a request by the National Bolshevik party to protest U.S. foreign policy, but the protesters will be confined to an area outside downtown Riga.

U.S. National Security Adviser Steve Hadley says the president's time with the Baltic leaders is meant to outline a broader concept of democracy beyond majority rule.

"In the visit to the Baltics, the president will emphasize that our alliance with Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia is strong, and it is built on a commitment to shared values: democracy, rule of law, and tolerance, values that we are working together in partnership with the Baltic states to advance within those states, within Europe, and, more generally, abroad," he said.

The presidents of Lithuania and Estonia are refusing to attend Monday ceremonies in Moscow marking the Allied defeat of Nazi Germany, because the end of the Second World War in Europe was the beginning of more than four decades of Soviet occupation.

In an interview with Lithuanian television, President Bush said he will remind Russian President Vladimir Putin that there is great anxiety in the Baltic states over this anniversary, and that Latvians, Lithuanians, and Estonians do not view it as a great moment of celebration.

In the Netherlands, President Bush will meet with Queen Beatrix and visit with U.S. and Dutch veterans at a cemetery holding the remains of more than 8,000 Americans killed during World War II.

Mr. Bush will be the first U.S. president to visit the former Soviet republic of Georgia, and will address a gathering of more than 100,000 people in Tblisi's Freedom Square, the site of the country's nonviolent Rose Revolution.