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U.S. Missile Defense Plan Draws Kremlin's Ire


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

When Western leaders meet this week in Europe, they'll be debating an emerging issue and an old one. The emerging issue is global warming, and we'll have more on that in a moment. The old issue is an American plan for missile defense, and that issue carries echoes of the Cold War. In fact, Moscow has threatened to aim missiles at Europe for the first time in years. And today, President Bush is speaking out against Russia.

NPR's Gregory Feifer joins us from Moscow. And, Greg, what is President Bush saying?

GREGORY FEIFER: Well, Bush, today, dismissed Russian concerns about the U.S. plans for missile defense shield. He says it will not be directed against Russia.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: The Cold War's over. It ended. The people of the Czech Republic don't have to choose between being a friend of the United States or a friend with Russia. You could be both.

FEIFER: In a separate speech today in Prague, Bush also criticized Russia for derailing what he called once promising Democratic reforms.

MONTAGNE: So those are pretty strong words. But back to what Russia's problem is, what are its complaints about this shield?

FEIFER: Russia is upset over American plans to install parts of the missile shield in the Czech Republic and Poland. Moscow is denying American claims that the missile shield will be directed rogue states such as Iran and North Korea. Russia says that the missile threat is a direct threat to its national security, and Putin has said recently that Russia will respond by targeting its own missiles at sites in Europe.

MONTAGNE: And Presidents Bush and Putin are meeting on the sidelines of the G-8 Summit on Thursday. How is that meeting expected to go considering all this tough talk?

FEIFER: Well, it's likely to be quite tense. Putin has recently compared the United States to Nazi Germany. He says Washington wants to fill Europe with weapons and turn Europe into what he calls a powder keg. But G-8 summits have been known for papering over the issues. This was supposed to be the last official meeting between Mr. Bush and Putin. But Mr. Bush has recently invited Putin to visit the United States at the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine. So some analysts say that Putin might choose the G-8 Summit to confront, finally confront the U.S. over the missile defense shield. But most say the big issues are likely to be left until the U.S.-Russia summit next month.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much. NPR's Gregory Feifer, speaking to us from Moscow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Gregory Feifer
Gregory Feifer reports for NPR from Moscow, covering Russia's resurgence under President Vladimir Putin and the country's transition to the post-Putin era. He files from other former Soviet republics and across Russia, where he's observed the effects of the country's vast new oil wealth on an increasingly nationalistic society as well as Moscow's rekindling of a new Cold War-style opposition to the West.