As he laid out his vision for a "whole and free" Europe, President Bush today sought to reassure Russia that an expanded and strengthened European alliance would not be its enemy.
"Our goal is to erase the false lines that have divided Europe for too long," the president said in Warsaw, Poland — a nation that was once on the other side of the Iron Curtain but is now a member of NATO.
"All of Europe's new democracies, from the Baltic to the Black Sea and all that lie between, should have the same chance for security and freedom … as Europe's old democracies have," Bush said.
In a nearly half-hour speech laden with historical references, Bush repeated the late British Prime Minister Winston Churchill's call for "a new unity" on the continent and said the vision of what his father called "a Europe whole and free" was "no longer a dream."
"Let us tell all those who have struggled to build democracy and free markets … no one can take away your freedom or your country," the president said, drawing sustained applause from his audience at the Warsaw University Library.
Bush urged his counterparts across the Atlantic to support expansion of the 19-member NATO alliance and the strengthening of ties with Russia, telling European leaders, "My nation welcomes the consolidation of European unity and the security it brings."
The president has also pushed for the enlargement of the 15-nation European Union. As heads of state and government met at the organization's summit in Gotheburg, Sweden, some 25,000 protesters who have descended on the city demonstrated against the EU. Hundreds of rioters clashed with police today, leaving two of the protesters wounded from gunfire.
Bush to Putin: U.S. 'No Enemy' of Russia
On the eve of their first face-to-face meeting, Bush sought to assure Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia has nothing to fear from the enlargement of NATO, a military alliance originally formed in the 1950s to counter the Soviet bloc.
"We look for the day when Russia is fully reformed, fully democratic and closely bound to the rest of Europe," he said. "NATO, even as it grows, is no enemy of Russia … America is no enemy of Russia."
Bush and Putin are set to meet Saturday in the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana — the U.S. president's final stop on this weeklong European tour.
"I very much hope … we will be able to work out and initiate a unified approach to defining the future architecture of international security," Putin told reporters in Moscow today.
But the two presidents remain sharply at odds over the Bush administration's plans to field a limited system to defend the United States against ballistic missile attack.
Moscow is staunchly opposed to the missile-defense proposal and has warned it would mean the abrogation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The landmark 1972 arms-limitation agreement expressly forbids the kind of defensive weapons systems Bush envisions.
Many members of NATO, whose leaders Bush met with Wednesday, also oppose Bush's plans and argue that scrapping the ABM treaty could ignite a new arms race with Russia. But the president renewed his commitment to developing a system to defend against an unintentional missile launch or a strike from a rogue nation.