The Washington Times - April 3, 2008, 11:09AM

President Bush won NATO’s backing for a missile defense shield inside two former Communist bloc countries in Eastern Europe today, just days before a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin that U.S. officials say may yield an agreement on the matter.

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NATO also today invited Croatia and Albania to join the alliance, expanding the treaty organization closer to the Russian border as the Bush administration said it must go even further into Eastern Europe and still could later this year.

Joint Statement by the United States and Czech Republic
The United States and the Czech Republic are pleased to announce the completion of negotiations on a missile defense agreement. We plan to sign the agreement in the near future.\ \ \ This agreement is an important step in our efforts to protect our nations and our NATO Allies from the growing threat posed by the proliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction.\ \ \ This agreement calls for the stationing of a U.S. radar in the Czech Republic to track ballistic missiles. The radar will be linked to other U.S. missile defense facilities in Europe and the United States.\ \ \ In addition to deepening our bilateral strategic relationship, we strongly believe that our cooperation in this area will make a substantial contribution to NATO’s collective capability to counter existing and future threats in the 21st century, and will be an integral part of any future NATO-wide missile defense architecture.

Jon Ward, White House correspondent, The Washington Times