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In a nearly half-hour speech laden with historical references, Bush repeated the late British Prime Minister Winston Churchill's call for "a new unity" on the continent and said the vision of what his father called "a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.
"The basis for our mutual security must move beyond Cold War doctrines," Bush said this afternoon. "Today we face growing threats from weapons of mass destruction and missiles in the hands of states for whom terror and blackmail are a way of life."
Senior administration officials who sat in on Bush's closed-door meeting with fellow NATO leaders in Brussels this week said a number of European allies expressed support for the controversial concept.
Differences Over Environmental, Defense Policy Remain
Seeking to reassure European leaders that sharp differences over environmental and defense policy would not hamper the future of U.S.-European leaders, Bush again stressed areas of agreement today as he has throughout the course of his five-nation trip.
"Today a new generation makes a new commitment: A Europe and an America bound in a great alliance of liberty — history's greatest force for peace and progress and human dignity," the president said. "Our progress is great, our goals are large and our differences, in comparison, are small."
But those differences have often taken center stage during the president's first visit to Europe since taking office.
After trying to persuade skeptical NATO leaders to back his missile-defense plans, the president was forced to confront differences over a major global warming treaty as he met Thursday with EU leaders in Gothenburg.
Although none of the EU nations have yet ratified the 1997 Kyoto Accord, Bush's rejection of the climate change agreement has been a source of tension. The president has argued the limits on greenhouse gas emissions called for in the protocol are unrealistic and unfair because they do not apply to developing countries.
Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson said following the session that the EU and the United States had simply "agreed to disagree" on the matter.
"We share more than an alliance. We share a civilization," Bush said today. "These trans-Atlantic ties could not be severed by U-boats. They could not be cut by checkpoints and barbed wire … And they certainly will not be broken by commercial quarrels and political debates."