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Russia backs away from missile threat

Russia backs away from missile threat
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A close aide to the Russian president has said Moscow will not be targeting its missiles at European cities in a response to Washington’s proposed defence shield. The apparent toning-down of Russian rhetoric comes ahead of today’s scheduled bilateral encounter on the sidelines of the G8 summit.

Vladimir Putin and US president, George W. Bush have not met face to face for almost six months. At the last G8 summit in St Petersburg a year ago, relations were a lot warmer. It is hoped that at today’s talks, attempts will be made on both sides to iron out differences.

One of the main concerns of the West is that Putin is eroding democratic freedoms and centralising power in the Kremlin. Bush has said he will be raising the subject but the softening of the Russian stance has not gone that far and criticism of its democratic credentials is not likely to be tolerated.

Moscow’s long range missile test last month did not help relations, and Putin’s verbal assault in February, accusing Washington of trying to force its will on the world, may provide an interesting conversation topic. But at least the issue of pointing missiles at each other seems off the agenda.