Kennebunkport, Maine With the U.S. and Russia at odds over American plans for missiles in Europe, the state of democracy in Russia and more, President Bush welcomed Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Bush family's seaside summer resort Sunday for an overnight stay.
Relations between Bush and Putin may not be as rocky as the shoreline on which this summit takes place, but relations have grown more strained in recent months, with Bush pressing plans for deployment of a defensive missile network in eastern Europe and Putin vocally decrying the Bush administration's "unilateral" advances in Europe and the Middle East.
Meetings both formal and casual are planned at the Walker's Point summer mansion of the president's father, former President George H.W. Bush, which has prompted some to question just how much guidance Bush and Putin - both nearing the ends of their terms as president - might need in repairing a relationship once famously warm.
"Is this the first time that a U.S. leader has hosted a foreign leader at Dad's house?" asked Andrew Kuchins, director of the Russia and Eurasia program at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. "The symbolism is quite striking. And I ask myself the question: Do Vlad and George need some kind of adult supervision?"
The president's father greeted Putin upon arrival at an Air Force base in New Hampshire and flew with him by helicopter to Maine, where the Russian president's limousine awaited. They rode to the Walker's Point retreat, greeted the president and first lady and headed for an evening boat ride before a lobster dinner.
What they need most, it appears, is a way around a dispute that has inflamed tensions in recent months: the Bush administration's insistence on deploying defensive missiles in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic to guard against "rogue" threats, that of Iran in particular.
Putin has offered an old Soviet-built radar installation in Azerbaijan to support the missile defenses, suggesting the U.S. could station its missiles on ships. But he adamantly opposes the deployment of missiles in Poland.
Similarly, Bush and Putin are at odds over Kosovo's ambitions for independence from Serbia, with Russian leaders resisting the move. And they are at odds over the progress of democracy in Russia.