Bush Trip Advancer


U.S. President George W. Bush travels to Europe this week for ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War Two. VOA's Jim Bertel reports that during his trip the president will not only remember the triumph over the Axis Powers, but the end of the Cold War as well.


President Bush's trip to Europe this week will be rich in symbolism - historical and geopolitical. In Moscow, the American president will join world leaders to remember the end of World War Two in Europe. But just as important will be stops by Mr. Bush in two former Soviet states where the mood is less celebratory. They associate the defeat of Nazi Germany with the beginning of Soviet occupation.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has voiced objections to Mr. Bush's planned visits to Latvia and Georgia. But James Goldgeier of the Council on Foreign Relations says the U.S. is worried about more than Mr. Putin's reaction.


"I'm sure he's not happy about the visits, but (it is) very important for an American president in going to Russia - especially at this time when Russia has taken so many steps backward - very important to support what's going on in these parts of the former Soviet Union where countries really have made important steps to join the west."


Mr. Goldgeier says this trip by Mr. Bush to Latvia will focus on the Baltic States new role as members of the European Union and NATO.

At the end of his trip, the American president will travel to Tbilisi, Georgia. Radek Sikorsi, a former Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister in Poland who is now with the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, believes Mr. Bush's meeting with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili ( mee-kah-EEL sah-kahsh-VEE-lee) will send a clear message to the Kremlin.


"And by going to Georgia, I think President Bush signal(s) America supports democratic revolutions in the former Soviet Union."


Russia has thousands of troops still in Georgia to support its war in Chechnya.

JAMES GOLDGEIER, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS "Georgia needs a strong sign of support from the United States, from the West, that the United States really will assist Georgia as it takes the steps to try to go forward with reform."


Even with stops in Riga and Tbilisi, the focal point of this trip is Russia, where Mr. Bush will not only commemorate the defeat of Nazi Germany sixty years ago, but also meet with President Putin for the second time this year. Mr. Goldgeier says the warm, personal relationship between the two leaders has developed a noticeable chill in recent months.


"And so the relationship is a little more tense, but they still, each president needs to have a good relationship with the other. It's very important that the United States and Russia maintain good relations even while they work through some of their differences."


Analysts in Moscow and Washington say Mr. Bush faces a difficult balancing act: Pushing Mr. Putin for a commitment to democracy, while seeking his help in the war on terrorism.

For his part, Mr. Putin is expected to raise concerns over Washington's growing influence in former Soviet republics including Georgia and especially Ukraine. Mr. Sikorski believes it is in Russia's best interest to support the new democracies along its borders.


I think Russia has more to gain by cooperating with its neighbors then by maintaining the fear of Russia around its periphery.


The Bush administration has repeatedly reassured the Russian leader that despite growing American friendships with former Soviet states, it would not supplant Russia's influence in the region. Jim Bertel, VOA News.

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