George W. Bush photo

Exchange With Reporters During a Tour of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia

May 25, 2002

President's Visit to Russia

Q. Mr. President, allow me to ask you— [inaudible]—summarize results of your— [inaudible]. And the second part of that question, the expectation of the Moscow summit—how do you think——

President Bush. Well, first, the hospitality has been magnificent. The time we spent last night with the Putins in their beautiful home was very relaxing for Laura and me. It gave us a great chance to see how the Putins live, a very good sense of their values. I think the thing that struck me the most was how they have raised their daughters. They've got two beautiful daughters who are incredibly talented young ladies. It is clear their mom and dad love them a lot, and that was impressive to Laura and me.

The other good piece of news is, I got to go actually run outside—[laughter]— which is a difficult thing for me to do when I'm on the road and in Washington as well. I ran on beautiful grounds; it's such a spectacular piece of property. And then we had a wonderful breakfast—special Russian foods. It's been a wonderful, relaxing experience.

I was very touched that the President took time yesterday, after going to the Kremlin—after going to Red Square, to take us to his office. And I thought it was a great personal touch; that was important, to see the private side of this man's life. It meant a lot.

Secondly, I think the summit was—met expectations; it met my expectations. I hope it met the President's expectations. We not only signed a very important treaty, we signed a—you know, a very important protocol of how our relations ought to go forward, and I'm really glad that—I'm glad that all the hard work on both sides has paid off. And this will be good for the Russian people. This agreement will be good for the people of Russia, and it'll be good for the people of America.

You know, at the St. Petersburg cemetery today, the lady who gave us a tour spoke about peace and how it was important for everybody who walked those hallowed grounds to remember the ravages of war and to remember the importance of peace. And I explained to her that this visit was a visit of peace, where we cast aside the old ways of suspicion and now embrace peace.

Sorry about the interpreter. [Laughter]

Q. [Inaudible]—interpretation.

President Bush. Okay. Well, good luck. [Laughter]

[At this point, a question was asked in Russian, and no translation was provided.]

President Vladimir Putin of Russia. As far as the staying of Mr. President and his wife in our home yesterday, I would like you to know two things. For one thing, our personal relations to—have been greatly strengthened. They're very happy to know that I'm dealing with very honest and upward and straight people. That is one.

And then there is something else, which is by no means a political thing. Yesterday, when we had our dinner and I was treating my guests, of course, to the Russian caviar, and I told him how some of the caviar is produced. The experts would take the fish and open up the fish and then take the caviar and then throw out the fish again—and throw it back into the water. [Laughter] Everybody was laughing, thinking that I was really inventing things on the spot, something really improbable. [Laughter] But I was trying to convince them—I was really trying to tell them that I was telling the truth; that's how we treated the environment. [Laughter]

The Secretary of State, the Russian Foreign Minister, Dr. Rice, Mr. Ivanov, and also both wives—my wife and Mr. President's wife—all laughed at me. And there was only one person who wouldn't laugh and said, "I do believe you, Mr. President," and that was the President of the United States. [Laughter] And I want to confirm it here and now; that's the truth, ladies and gentlemen. [Laughter]

And one more thing. The dinner, the supper was over somewhere around midnight, because we were supposed to go to St. Petersburg early in the morning. Of course, we got up very early; we didn't have enough sleep this morning. And when last night, before going to bed, Mr. President told me that he would be jogging in the morning, I wouldn't believe him. [Laughter] But he was doing that, just that.

Well, on a serious note, as far as the results of this visit are concerned, I would like to say that myself and my experts, all my experts, we have been discussing the results of the visit this morning, and we have officially agreed that we are satisfied, and all the goals of this visit have been achieved.

I thank you.

President Bush. One question, Ron [Ron Fournier, Associated Press], go ahead.

Pakistan-India Relations

Q. If I could ask you real quickly, sir, is there anything personal you can do to ease tensions between Pakistan and India? And do you think President Musharraf is doing enough to crack down on terrorism in Kashmir?

President Bush. We are spending a lot of time on this subject—"we" being the administration. And we're making it very clear to both parties that there is—there's no benefit of a war, there's no benefit of a clash that could eventually lead to a broader war.

We're deeply concerned about the rhetoric. It is very important for President Musharraf to stop—do what he said he's going to do to in his speech on terror, and that is stop the incursions across the line—the line of control. It's important that the Indians know that he is going to fulfill that promise.

Vladimir and I have talked about this, and he's got—he as well as the United States and Great Britain and other countries have got influence in the region, and he is going to meet soon at a conference where we believe Prime Minister Vajpayee and President Musharraf will both be attending.

My point is, is that there's a lot of diplomatic efforts going into bringing some calm and reason to the region.

President Putin. An international event is planned for the early June this year in Kazakhstan, where both President Musharraf and Prime Minister Vajpayee have been invited. I do hope they will come, and there would be an opportunity for us to discuss things. And we have covered that ground with the President of the United States.

Of course, the testing, while there is escalating tension, really aggravates the situation, and Russia is concerned and sorry about that. I'm sorry about that. And we shall be working together to take steps in order to prevent the escalation of the conflict.

President Bush. Thank you all.

NOTE: The exchange began at 1:05 p.m. In his remarks, President Bush referred to President Putin's daughters, Masha and Katya, and his wife, Lyudmila; President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan; and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee of India. President Putin referred to Minister of Foreign Affairs Igor Sergeyevich Ivanov and Minister of Defense Sergey Borisovich Ivanov of Russia. The transcript released by the Office of the Press Secretary also included the closing remark of President Putin. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this exchange.

George W. Bush, Exchange With Reporters During a Tour of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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