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Russiain my piece todayHere“strategic framework”
We discussed the issue of missile defense. Both sides expressed their interest in creating a system for responding to potential missile threats in which Russia and the United States and Europe will participate as equal partners.\ \ \

The Russian side has made clear that it does not agree with the decision to establish sites in Poland and the Czech Republic and reiterated its proposed alternative. Yet, it appreciates the measures that the U.S. has proposed and declared that if agreed and implemented such measures will be important and useful in assuaging Russian concerns.

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We agreed to intensify our dialogue after Sochi on issues concerning MD cooperation both bilaterally and multilaterally.

Afghanistan troop levels was the only one of Mr. Bush’s three targets for this trip that was not complicated by Russian objections. The president’s difficulty in making any progress on missile defense or NATO expansion demonstrated Russia’s growing heft as a world power.

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Russia succeeded in pressuring NATO countries to block former Soviet blocs Ukraine and Georgia from the alliance’s membership action plan (MAP).

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But the personal relationship between Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin was as warm as ever. \ \ \ The two leaders reflected on their time in office and their own friendship, which was highlighted again Saturday night when they spent three hours together at a private dinner here, along with first lady Laura Bush and Russian President-elect Dmitry Medvedev.

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Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin joked with each other and danced together with a Russian troupe.

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“It won’t be our last meeting as people, but it will be our last meeting as presidents of our country,” Mr. Bush said. “And it’s a little bit nostalgic. … It just proves life moves on.”

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Mr. Putin said he “always found it rewarding and interesting to deal with the U.S. president.”

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“I have always appreciated his honesty and his openness, his willingness to listen to his counterpart,” he said. “This is precious.”

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Mr. Bush defended his initial assessment of Mr. Putin in 2001 at the first meeting, when Mr. Bush said he saw into Mr. Putin’s soul and found him a “trustworthy” ally.

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“I thought he’d be the kind of person who would tell me what’s on his mind,” Mr. Bush said. “He’s been very truthful.”

P4050014.jpgJon Ward, White House correspondent, The Washington Times

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