Warm words end Black Sea summit as leaders vow to bridge differences

Seven years of personal summitry between George Bush and Vladimir Putin ended yesterday as it began: with much bonhomie, but deep divisions on policy – above all the US plan, approved by Nato but bitterly opposed by Russia, to build parts of a missile defence system in central Europe.

The 27th and last meeting between the two leaders, at the Russian presidential retreat at Sochi on the Black Sea, was reminiscent of their first, in Slovenia in 2001, when the US President famously declared Mr Putin a man he could trust, and that he had "got a sense of his soul".

This time, Mr Putin, who will be replaced next month by his hand-picked successor Dimitri Medvedev, showered compliments on Mr Bush, praising "his superior human qualities, honesty, openness, and an ability to hear a partner".

Mr Medvedev too apparently passed the instant character test with flying colours. After a separate meeting, Mr Bush described the president-in-waiting as "a smart fellow." In response, Mr Medvedev vowed to continue to work to advance US/Russian relations, calling them "a key factor in international security."

But the concrete results of the labours in Sochi were meagre, essentially a vaguely worded declaration claiming to lay down a "road map" for future ties between the former superpower rivals. But it merely committed them to "intensify dialogue" on the missile defence scheme – which the US says is designed to prevent an attack from Iran, but which Russia regards as a threat to its own security and nuclear deterrent.

"I want to be understood correctly," Mr Putin stated at a joint press conference. "Strategically, no change has occurred in our attitude to the US plan." Given Mr Bush's lame duck status, the declaration has less weight even than such anodyne documents normally possess. From Mr Putin's and Mr Medvedev's point of view, there is the likelihood that if a Democrat wins the White House, the next president will be less wedded to missile defence than Mr Bush has been.

The same might be true on the various other issues which have divided the countries. The bones of contention, in addition to the installation of radar and interceptor missile facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic, include Kosovo independence, Iran, and the expansion of Nato into countries that were former republics of the Soviet Union.

At its Bucharest summit last week, Nato approved the entry of Croatia and Albania. But it stopped short of endorsing a fast-track membership action plan for Ukraine and Georgia, as the Bush administration had wanted. The opposition was led by Germany and France, apparently out of a desire not to antagonise Russia, which vehemently opposes any such moves.

Mr Putin and Mr Bush did promise to keep working for a deal to replace the Start nuclear arms reduction agreement which expires in 2009. The US President also said he would ask Congress to repeal the Jackson-Vanik amendment, a Cold War relic dating back to 1974, which linked trade with the former USSR to human rights and Jewish emigration. The amendment's survival has not prevented rapid growth in US-Russian trade, but has interfered with Moscow's efforts to join the World Trade Organisation.

Lord of the dance

*The performance of Cossack folk dancing which apparently oiled the wheels of diplomacy at the Sochi summit took place at a private dinner away from the cameras. Mr Bush said later: "I'm only happy that my press corps didn't see me try to dance."

The Russian leader Vladimir Putin flattered him with the reassurance: "We have seen you're a brilliant dancer."

While something of an exhibitionist must beat in the heart of most politicians, it seems that the lame-duck US President is unable to suppress his inner performer. But "brilliant dancer" might be overstating it.

In January, while on a nine-day tour of the Middle East, he looked uncomfortable performing the Dance of the Sword, arms linked with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Waiting for the Republican presidential candidate John McCain on the steps of the White House recently Mr Bush could not resist breaking into a tap-dancing routine. A video clip attracted some unflattering comments on YouTube.

Claire Ellicott

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
A boy holds a chick during the Russian National Agricultural Exhibition Golden Autumn 2014 in Moscow on October 9, 2014.
Life and Style
love + sex
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United 1 player ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th-century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software Support Analyst

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a career in custome...

Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, PHP, HTML, JavaScript, CSS

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, HTML...

Recruitment Genius: 2nd / 3rd Line IT Support Engineer - Managed Services Provider

£30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 2nd / 3rd Line IT Support Eng...

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot