Bush warns NATO allies: We cannot afford to lose Afghanistan
Ahead of the NATO summit opening in Bucharest Wednesday, April 2, the US president George W. Bush, called for more troops for Afghanistan. On the second hottest theme of the conference, he remarked in Kiev Tuesday that Russia has no veto over former Soviet states joining the 26-member alliance summit, which President Vladimir Putin is attending as a guest. Bush was speaking at a joint news conference with Ukraine president Yushchenko.
After the two-day summit – where a European consensus on NATO’s eastward enlargement is doubtful in view of German and French reluctance to raise tensions with Russia – Bush meets Putin at his Black Sea residence in Sochi April 6 for their last face-to-face as presidents.
Putin hands over to president-elect Dmitry Medvedev in May. Bush is in the final months of his presidency.
The US president admitted that there was still much work to do to persuade Moscow that America wants the US missile shield deployed in Poland and the Czech Republic – not to attack Russian but to defend Europe against ballistic missile attack. He denied any trade-off with Russia on the two issues in answer to a question.
Another uphill task ahead of the NATO summit is persuading members to put up more troops for Afghanistan where the war against Taliban and al Qaeda is hobbled by a shortage of fighting manpower. France is expected to pledge 1,000 soldiers, the Czech Republic another hundred, nowhere near the necessary supplement needed for the 43,000-strong force, one-third American. NATO leaders may invite Croatia, Albania and possibly Macedonia to join the alliance.