Skip to main content International
The Web      Powered by

Democracy on Bush's Russia agenda

Bushes and Putins pose outside the Russian president's home.
more videoVIDEO
Differences are widening between Bush and Putin.

Queen Beatrix and Bush lay wreaths at a Dutch WWII cemetery.

Bush praises Latvia's democracy, cites "occupation" on visit to ex-Soviet republic
George W. Bush
Moscow (Russia)

MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- U.S. President George W. Bush has arrived in Moscow to hold talks with President Vladimir Putin and attend a Red Square military parade marking 60 years since the Allied victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

"They will talk about issues concerning the continued march of democracy in Europe and also in Russia," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters aboard Air Force One.

"This is not an issue of lecturing Russia, it is that the United States and Russia have a deep and broad relationship. We'd like it to get deeper and broader. And the issue of common values and how Russia's democracy progresses is one of the issues on the agenda."

Bush's visit to Moscow marks the third stop in a four-nation trip celebrating the 60th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe. (Itinerary)

In the Latvian capital Riga on Saturday, Bush called the Cold War division of Europe after 1945 one of the "greatest wrongs of history" and referred to the "occupation and communist oppression" of the Baltic states.

The Kremlin has expressed concern about Bush's visits to Latvia and Georgia, also set for this trip, because of Moscow's strained relationships with its former satellites.

Russian officials also have objected to Bush's use of the word occupation in reference to the fate of the Baltics. (Full story)

Rice said Bush will tell Putin that Russia should try to improve relations with the Baltic nations because they are neighbors and have a long history, AP reported.

"The experience of the Baltics with the Soviet Union was an unhappy and tragic one," she said. "The experience of the Baltics with Russia does not have to be."

Bush's private talks with Putin Sunday evening will touch on some of the most contentious issues spurring open disagreement between the two world leaders.

While their public remarks are expected to be about the war, their behind-the-scenes discussions are likely to deal with more immediate issues.

Those include Russia's moves away from democracy, Putin's recent comment expressing nostalgia for the Soviet Union, his plans to sell anti-aircraft missiles to Syria and Russia's assistance to Iran in building a nuclear-powered electricity plant.

The two men have continued to openly express their friendship even amid the concerns over these and other issues, and Rice predicted Sunday's meeting would be no different.

"I've watched them together and they are friendly," she said. "Their wives are going to be at this dinner."

However, in an interview with CBS's "60 Minutes" to be aired Sunday, Putin said Washington should not criticize Russia's internal affairs because the U.S. system of electing presidents, including the Electoral College, has its own flaws, AP reported.

"In the United States, you first elect the electors and then they vote for the presidential candidates. In Russia, the president is elected through the direct vote of the whole population. That might be even more democratic," he said.

But he said he would appeal for unity at Monday's ceremonies.

"We should not forget the things that brought us together, that united us," Putin said. "We have to look to the future to fight for the future of mankind and to fight especially against terrorism."

Bush honors WWII dead

Earlier Sunday, Bush paid tribute in the Netherlands to the Americans who died during World War II in the fight to free Europe from the tyranny of Nazi Germany.

"On this peaceful May morning, we commemorate a great victory for liberty," Bush said Sunday at Europe's third-largest cemetery for America war dead in Margraten.

"The thousands of white marble crosses and stars of David underscore the terrible price we paid for that victory."

Bush compared the fight for freedom in Europe 60 years ago to his efforts to spread democracy today.

"The world's tyrants learned a lesson -- there is no power like the power of freedom and no solider is as strong as the soldier that fights for that freedom," Bush said.

"The free and peaceful world that we hope to leave to our own children is inspired by their example."

Before his speech, Bush and Queen Beatrix laid wreaths in a light, chilly rain at the U.S. cemetery at Margraten near the southern city of Maastricht, where 8,301 U.S. war dead are buried.

First lady Laura Bush laid flowers at the grave of a soldier, a Medal of Honor winner who served in the same division as her father.

A bugler played taps, and military aircraft flew over the cemetery.

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende read from the diary of Anne Frank: "I feel the suffering of millions and yet when I look up into the skies I somehow feel everything will change for the better, that this cruelty will end, that peace will return again once more."

"Freedom is a universal value," Balkenende said. "Faith, freedom and democracy unite us. Day after day we must work hard to cherish and promote our freedom.

"Day after day we must remember we can freedom for granted. Day after day we must keep the bond between freedom and other values in mind."

Bush held a working breakfast Sunday with Balkenende, while outside six people were arrested in a protest against Bush. The U.S. president is very unpopular in Netherlands, largely because of the Iraq war.

CNN's Dana Bash, John King and Jill Dougherty contributed to this report.

Story Tools
Click Here to try 4 Free Trial Issues of Time! cover
Top Stories
Iran poll to go to run-off
Top Stories
EU 'crisis' after summit failure

On CNN TV E-mail Services CNN Mobile CNN AvantGo CNNtext Ad info Preferences
   The Web     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.