George W. Bush photo

Interview With Russian ITAR-TASS

February 18, 2005

Russia-U.S. Relations

Q. Thank you very much, Mr. President, for this, again, unique opportunity to talk with you.

The President. Thank you, sir.

Q. You first time met with President Putin in Slovenia, and now in Slovakia is going to be—[laughter]—your 12th meeting. What kind—do you think we need now? Do we need a fresh start? And what do you expect for this meeting?

The President. You know, it's interesting. First of all, we don't need a fresh start in my personal relationship with Vladimir Putin. We're friends, and that's important. It's important so that we can—he and I can have good talks, and we can understand each other and understand the decision-making process.

Vladimir makes a lot of decisions. And I make a lot of decisions. And I like to talk about—him about, "Well, why did you do this?" or "Why did you do that?" And I suspect he likes to ask me the same questions.

Secondly, we've got the framework for a good strategic relationship, which is important. I think this relationship can be invigorated. The campaign came, and in American public life, I mean—whether it be foreign policy or domestic policy, often you kind of shut down when the campaign comes. People weren't really sure who was going to be the next President for a while. It turned out to be me, thankfully. But—and so this is a chance to reinvigorate. I wouldn't say fresh—fresh start is okay. I'd call it reinvigorate. We've got the framework, and it gives us a chance to move it forward. There's a lot we need to do, a lot we need to work together on.

60th Anniversary of V-E Day

Q. V-Day in Moscow—in May——

The President. Yes.

Q. ——60 years ago, World War II was ended. Your father was a pilot, was a hero of Second War.

The President. Yes.

Q. What—the best—the people who can—to those who won the war. What can you say to the patriots? You are invited to Moscow for the——

The President. I'm coming. Oh, yes, I want to make sure everybody understands I'm coming. My answer is, is that, thank you for your sacrifice. The Russian veterans—the people of Russia went through an unbelievable period of time of sacrifice. The stories of courage and bravery against the onslaught of the Nazis was really fantastic. I mean, it was a great lesson for bravery.

And same in our country—they call it the "Greatest Generation"; that's what they call the World War II people because they sacrificed. And it still—this world still requires sacrifice in different ways. But there's still needed sacrifice to make sure there's peace. And I'm looking forward to the celebrations.

Q. The wartime alliance, do you have lessons for us now? We have again the common enemy.

The President. Yes. No, we do. And that's another thing Vladimir and I will talk about. He sees clearly the common enemy. He's a—and he knows you got to be tough to—and resolute and strong. And we will talk about that common enemy that is still active. The enemy—there's a set of beliefs they believe in, and I believe the best way to defeat those beliefs is by spreading freedom and democracy. Free societies don't like to fight. Free societies spend more time listening to their people and the demands of their people as opposed to being able to fight and spread—in this case fighting an ideology that is an ideology of hatred as this—as your good country full—fully understands.

Russia-U.S. Relations

Q. American-Russian relationship—what was the biggest success during your first term? And what are your plans for next 4 years?

The President. I appreciate that. Look, I think the biggest success would be twofold: one, an understanding of the war— the world we live in and the war on terror. Now, the enemy hit us, and they hit Russia. They hit us in a gruesome way, and they hit Russia in a gruesome way—Beslan, these movie theaters. I mean, there are all kinds of terrible events that have taken place. And so there's a common understanding that we need to work together on the war on terror. And that's important.

The other thing was the Moscow Treaty. We kind of recognized that an era has gone by, that we're reducing our nuclear stockpiles. And that's important too.

Ahead, there's a lot of things we can do. We can work on proliferation. We can work on—on disease and hunger. We can work on Iran to make sure the Iranians don't have a nuclear weapon. We continue to work on Korea. We continue to work for Middle Eastern peace. And the road-map is an opportunity for the United States and Russia to cooperate to convince Israel and the Palestinians to do what's necessary to achieve peace. And so there's a lot we can do. And I'm looking forward to seeing my friend Vladimir Putin.

Q. Thank you very much.

The President. Yes, sir.

Q. Thank you very much.

The President. Thanks for coming.

NOTE: The interview was taped at 11:06 a.m. in the Map Room at the White House for later broadcast. In his remarks, the President referred to President Vladimir Putin of Russia. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this interview.

George W. Bush, Interview With Russian ITAR-TASS Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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