Bush sends White House official to Moscow, other European capitals, following Putin criticism


12:00 p.m. February 20, 2007

WASHINGTON – President's Bush's national security adviser is embarking on a high-level mission to Moscow and other European capitals, just over a week after incendiary remarks about Bush and the United States by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Stephen Hadley was departing Washington Tuesday for a four-day trip to Brussels, Moscow and Berlin, said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for Hadley and Bush's National Security Council.

In Brussels, Hadley planned to meet with NATO and European Union officials. In Moscow and Berlin, he was scheduled to sit down with his counterparts in the Russian and German governments.

“This is part of ongoing discussions that will cover a full range of issues,” Johndroe said.

The trip has been planned for weeks. But it comes at a particularly delicate time in the Washington-Moscow relationship, meaning the Russian portion of his travels would be the most closely watched.

Putin surprised the White House on Feb. 10 by angrily accusing the United States of inciting other countries to seek nuclear weapons to defend them from an “almost uncontained use of military force.” At a security conference in Germany, the Russian leader said that “one state, the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way.”

It was Putin's harshest criticism yet of the United States. Bush, at a news conference several days later, said there was a “complicated relationship” between the United States and Russia, but that Putin was “the same strong-willed person” he has known since 2001.

“We have areas of cooperation with the Russians, particularly on our common desire to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction and our approach to fight terrorism,” Johndroe said.

At the State Department, deputy spokesman Tom Casey said that “on the broad range of issues, Russia is an important partner” and “a partner that we can have very open and frank discussions with.” He dismissed any suggestion that the two countries are moving back “toward some kind of renewed Cold War.”