RIGA 's During his visit to Europe U.S. President George W. Bush said that Baltic leaders have expressed concern over the situation with democracy in Russia and that he would relay these concerns to President Vladimir Putin when the two sit down at talks later this week.
"There were some concerns from the Baltic nations, and I look forward to carrying their message that it's very important for President Putin to make very clear why he's made some of the decisions he's made and as well as respect his neighbors," Bush was quoted as saying.
The U.S. president met with Vaira Vike-Freiberga on Tuesday and promised to continue supporting the Baltic states, the Latvian president told the public Latvian Television news program Panorama on Tuesday night.
When asked whether the Baltics could count on U.S. support against Russian criticism, Vike-Freiberga said: "This was discussed with President Bush several times, and he stressed that we do not have to worry because as a NATO member state Latvia can fully count on U.S. support and the personal support of President Bush 's without reservations, always and everywhere."
"President Bush said he was, and will be, Latvia's friend and support and won't break his promise to back up," said Vike-Freiberga.
Bush is scheduled to meet Putin in Slovakia on Thursday. He said he had a "good personal relationship" with the Russian president, which he would use to convey his concerns "in a cordial way."
"A constructive relationship allows me to remind him that I believe Russia is a European country, and European countries embrace those very same values that America embraces," said Bush.
Vike-Freiberga said that the U.S. president was aware of the EU's worries about Russia. "Concerns were voiced about the democratic processes being under threat in Russia. It is a serious signal that the EU sent to Bush, in particular in view of his planned meeting with Putin in Bratislava," said Vike-Freiberga.