US President George W Bush said on Wednesday he looked forward to a "yet another heart-to-heart" meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin despite their deep differences over NATO enlargement and US plans for a missile defence shield in Europe.
Speaking against the backdrop of the Black Sea at this Romanian resort, Bush rejected a US reporter's suggestion that his last meeting with Putin as head of state was liable to turn out to be a "diplomatic train wreck" that would cast a pall
over the closing months of his presidency.
"I'm going to make it clear to him that the Cold War is over," he said using a line that he has repeated several times in the run-up to a three-day NATO summit in Bucharest and bilateral talks this weekend with Putin at the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.
"I've got some convincing to do, but he needs to understand that the missile defence system is aimed primarily at rogue regimes coming out of the Middle East that could hold us all hostage."
Bush said he understood Russian concerns about NATO's expansion into what used to be the fringes of the erstwhile Soviet empire, but he argued that "democracies on the borders of Russia" were actually in Moscow's interests.
He said that he personally felt "no animosity" towards Putin, and that he had appreciated the outgoing Russian leader's candor at past meetings.
"This will be our last face-to-face meeting (as presidents)... You call it a (potential) diplomatic train wreck; I call it an opportunity to sit down and have a good frank discussion again.