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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin and Bush See Eye to Eye on Iran

Itar-TassPresident Vladimir Putin petting a dog as former President George Bush watches at his home in Kennebunkport.
KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine -- Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin projected a unified front Monday against Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program.

"When Russia and the United States speak along the same lines, it tends to have an effect and therefore I appreciate the Russians' attitude in the United Nations," Bush said. "We're close on recognizing that we've got to work together to send a common message."

Putin predicted that "we will continue to be successful" as the two countries work through the UN Security Council.

Security Council members have begun discussing a U.S. proposal for sanctions against Iran because of its refusal to stop enriching uranium. The United States, Russia and their fellow permanent UN Security Council members, however, have told Iran they will hold off on new sanctions if Iran stops expanding its enrichment activities while they seek to restart talks about with Tehran. Diplomats say the Iranian government has not yet responded to the proposal.

Putin suggested there would be "further substantial discussions on this issue."

It was unclear whether the leaders had agreed on methods or merely wanted to gloss over for public consumption any differences on strategy.

Bush and Putin have contrasting views on democracy and missile defense, NATO expansion into Russia's backyard and independence for Kosovo. They both want to stymie Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions, but have not seen eye to eye on how tough to get with Tehran or even whether Iranian missiles currently pose a threat.

On the prickly missile issue, Putin proposed transforming U.S. plans for a Central European missile shield into a broader system that would incorporate a radar system in Azerbaijan and bring more European nations into the decision-making process.

Mikhail Klimentyev / Itar-Tass
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice greeting Putin outside the Bush compound in Kennebunkport on Sunday.

"The relationship of our two countries would be raised to an entirely new level," Putin said, standing alongside Bush on the lawn of the Bush family summer home overlooking the craggy Atlantic shoreline.

Washington is planning to build a new missile defense system based in Poland and the Czech Republic. Putin had said the United States "overstepped its national borders" in every way and had threatened to reposition Russian rockets in retaliation.

Last month, Putin surprised Bush in Germany by proposing the Soviet-era early warning radar site in Azerbaijan as a substitute for the radar and interceptors the United States wants to place in Central Europe. Washington has been clear it doubts the Azeri facility is up to becoming a substitute.

Bush called Putin's latest missile defense idea "very sincere" and "very innovative." However, the president said, "I think the Czech Republic and Poland need to be an integral part of the system."

Stephan Savoia / AP
Putin fishing on former President George Bush's speedboat on Monday.

Earlier Monday, after a hearty Maine breakfast of pancakes and omelets, Bush and Putin piled into a powerful speedboat navigated by Bush's father, former President George Bush. Under the bright morning sunshine, Putin and the Bushes roamed close to the shoreline around the family's oceanfront estate for about 90 minutes.

Putin landed a fish, while his host did not.

When Putin arrived Sunday afternoon, it was all handshakes, kisses and smiles. Putin gave a kiss on the cheek to first lady Laura Bush and the president's mother, Barbara Bush, and handed them bouquets of flowers.

Putin and Bush took their first spin in the former president's boat nearly immediately after Putin got there. They grinned and waved to photographers as they zoomed along the coastline.

On Kosovo, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday that he hoped Bush's meeting with Putin would resolve differences over the future of Serbia's breakaway Kosovo province, but a Putin adviser offered little hope for that.

On Sunday night, there was "family-style dialogue" about coming elections in both countries as they dined on lobster and marinated swordfish. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied any tense discussions.

"Definitely not," Peskov said. "We could not have predicted the warmness and hospitality from President Bush. The Russian president was very much satisfied with that."

But for all the pleasantries and talk about patching up the Bush-Putin friendship and forging new relations with Russia as it transitions from its communist past, the rhetoric coming out of the Kremlin of late seems mired in the Cold War.

This tiny seacoast town has welcomed the Russian delegation, but an estimated 1,700 demonstrators interrupted a peaceful Sunday afternoon. They called for the impeachment of Bush and an end to the war in Iraq.

Bush, who feels Putin has tried to muzzle free speech, would have approved of a chant led by one demonstrator.

"Tell me what democracy sounds like," she yelled to her followers.

"This is what democracy sounds like," they screamed.