Washington and the Kremlin have disagreed over democracy in recent weeks.



Washington and the Kremlin have disagreed over democracy in recent weeks.
SCRIPPS HOWARD
WASHINGTON -- President Bush heads overseas Friday to celebrate the end of the war in Europe 60 years ago and, perhaps, bolster his relationship with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
Bush will start his latest diplomatic tour in Riga, Latvia, before traveling to the Netherlands, Russia and Georgia and returning to Washington late Tuesday.
National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said the trip is intended to "honor the shared sacrifice of millions of Americans, Europeans and others to defeat tyranny, and at the same time, to mark the growth of democracy throughout Europe and the world.
"The trip will also underscore the common commitment of the United States and our European allies to work together to advance freedom, prosperity and tolerance in Europe and beyond."
The five-day trip, the third overseas venture of the president's second term, already has ruffled some diplomatic feathers. In a letter to three Baltic leaders in advance of his visit, Bush noted he was heading to the region to celebrate the end of World War II. While the conflict's end resulted in freedom for millions, he added that, "The war also marked the Soviet occupation and annexation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and the imposition of communism."
The statement struck a nerve in the Kremlin, particularly since the Russian president reportedly was already annoyed that Bush's itinerary includes stops in Latvia and Georgia. Officially, Russia maintains that the former Soviet satellites were not annexed -- just allies -- and that troops were introduced at the time with the consent of the countries' leaders.
Washington brushed off the ado. "Russia is someone who we have good relations with," said White House press secretary Scott McClellan. "We have a good strategic relationship with Russia. We work very closely with Russia in a number of areas, whether it's trade, economic issues or our cooperation in the global war on terrorism."

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