Bush chides Russia, says 'reforms have been derailed'

US president calls relationship with Russia "complex"; will meet Putin at G8 summit Wed.

George w bush 88 good (photo credit: )
George w bush 88 good
(photo credit: )
PRAGUE - Democracy in Russia has gone off course, US President George W. Bush said Tuesday. Bush made his remarks in a speech at the Democracy and Security Conference in Prague organized by the the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at Jerusalem's Shalem Center, the Prague Security Studies Institute and the Spanish FAES Foundation. Bush met with democracy activists and dissidents who urged him to reemphasize the US policy of fostering democracy throughout the world. He is to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G8 summit in Germany on Wednesday. The US and Russia are in disagreement over a missile-defense system the US plans to set up in the Czech Republic and Poland. In a keynote address vigorously supporting the struggle for democracy worldwide, Bush listed the world's worst dictatorships. Regarding Russia and China, Bush said, "our friendship with them is complex. In Russia, reforms that once promised to empower citizens have been derailed, with troubling implications for democratic development." In an earlier speech upon arriving in the Czech capital, Bush tried to reassure Putin, saying that when he meets him at the G8, "My message will be: 'Vladimir,' - I call him Vladimir - 'you shouldn't fear a missile defense system. As a matter of fact, why don't you cooperate with us on a missile-defense system?'" He also invited Russia to send generals and scientists to the US to collaborate on the plan. Putin said in an interview over the weekend that if the US continued setting up the system, which Russia sees as a threat to its national security, he would order his country's missiles to be pointed once again at Western targets. The Czech government is negotiating with the US administration over the building of the radar-warning site for the system and has come under pressure from the Russians not to take part in the project. Senior Czech officials said in Prague they saw the system as an integral part of their NATO commitment and had no intention of giving in to Russian pressure. They said they were more concerned with internal opposition. Polls indicate that 60 percent of Czech citizens are against the plan, although a demonstration against it on the eve of Bush's visit was relatively small and peaceful. Tomas Klavna, the Czech government's coordinator for the project, said, "This is because until now the debate was dominated by the opponents, financed from abroad. But we are now going to explain to the public and the political parties the benefits from the system." Russian democracy activists, including Garry Kasparov, criticized Bush over the missile-defense system. The three co-chairmen of the Prague conference - former minister Natan Sharansky, former Czech president Vaclav Havel and former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar - presented Bush with a joint declaration titled the Prague Document. It sets out the basic beliefs in democracy, political freedom and human rights, and calls upon governments in the free world to carry out 10 basic tasks needed to encourage democracy and dissidents in repressive regimes. Bush endorses the document, one of his aides said. Bush's speech included one reference to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He spoke about those who "fear that democracy will bring dangerous forces to power, such as Hamas in the Palestinian territories. Elections will not always turn out the way we hope. Yet democracy consists of more than a single trip to the ballot box. Democracy requires meaningful opposition parties, a vibrant civil society and a government that enforces the law and responds to the needs of its people."•