Bush: First Meeting with Putin Went Well

ByABC News
June 16, 2001, 6:04 AM

June 16 -- President Bush and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, face to face for the first time today, apparently liked what they found and plan to meet again.

At a joint press conference in the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana, Bush said the two had agreed to future talks. "I have invited President Putin to Washington this fall. He accepted. He invited me to Russia and I accepted. And I look forward to the visit."

Stressing the importance of collaboration between the two nations, Bush added he and the Russian president had agreed to launch an "extensive dialogue" about a wide range of issues. "Russia and America have the opportunity to accomplish much together. We should seize it and today we have begun," said Bush.

Putin did acknowledge to reporters that the two still disagree about the U.S.'s construction of a missile shield. The issue has been a major source of contention between the two.Putin believes that the missile shield would imply that the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which forbids such defensive systems and which Russia views as a bedrock of strategic stability for the last three decades would essentially be over.

Bush assures Putin that the shield's purpose is to guard against what he called "rogue states." But after the meeting, Putin told reporters, "The 1972 ABM Treaty is the cornerstone of the modern architecture of international security."

Trust From the Texan

Still, Putin also was pleased by his first meeting with Bush.

The U.S. president answered with an emphatic yes when asked if he trusted Putin. "He's an honest, straightforward man who loves his country. He loves his family. We share a lot of values." Added the former Texas governor: "I wouldn't have invited him to my ranch if I didn't trust him."

Officials with both leaders had not expected any major agreements or breakthroughs between the two leaders, who had met in a closed-door gathering at the medieval hilltop Brdo Castle. Rather, this is considered more of a "meet and greet" kind of session. And Bush has been saying, first and foremost, he wants to develop a sense of trust between the two presidents.