WASHINGTON, May 22 (Reuters) President George W Bush said a lot of tensions exist between the West and Russia and voiced skepticism about Russia's path to democracy under President Vladimir Putin.
''My message to Vladimir Putin is there's a better way forward, and your interests lie in the West, and we ought to be working together in a collaborative way,'' Bush told Reuters in an interview yesterday.
Putin came close to comparing the United States to the Third Reich recently and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice tried to cool the harsh rhetoric in a visit to Moscow.
Putin has been upset at US plans for a missile shield in Europe that he considers aimed at countering Russia but which Bush says is to counter the potential threat of missile attack from renegade states.
Bush said he sent Defense Secretary Robert Gates to Moscow to try to ease Russian concerns about the missile shield, with the message that ''we're not your enemy.'' ''You know, people in his government harbor suspicions about our intention, and I was trying to allay those suspicions. But there is a lot of tension with Russia, particularly with Europe now, that Russia is using her energy and denying market access to different countries, for example, Polish meat,'' Bush said.
Bush said he still is close to Putin personally but said ''it's a very complex relationship'' between the US and Russian governments.
''He thinks they've got a democracy emerging there in Russia.
Obviously there's a lot of suspicion about that, and I look forward to continuing to talk to him as to why he thinks his country is on the path to democracy. It looks like at times it's not to me,'' he said.
REUTERS KK PM0442