Appearing together for the last time as presidents, Bush and Putin, wearing matching blue suits, white shirts and red ties, pledged their nations to continued cooperation on counterterrorism, nuclear proliferation and other issues. But on the matters that had increasingly divided them in recent weeks, they made little headway.
Putin continued to object to the United States placing a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic rather than working with Russia on a jointly installed missile shield. He complimented U.S. officials, however, for pledging to make the system more transparent and working to prove that it’s not aimed at Russia.
The Russian leader, who leaves office May 7, also continued to disagree with Bush’s promotion of Ukraine and Georgia as potential new NATO members. Still, Putin said, “I am satisfied that our partners are listening to us.”
Throughout a press conference that followed Bush’s separate meetings with Putin and his successor, President-elect Dmitry Medvedev, Bush and Putin referred to each other as “George” and “Vladimir,” reflecting their longstanding friendship through times of adversity. Since first meeting in 2001 in Slovenia, they have tried to use their personal relationship as a salve when their countries’ relations went downhill.