BRDO PRI KRANJU, Slovenia — President Bush and Russian President Vladimir V. Putin ended their first summit with expressions of mutual respect Saturday, but they made no significant progress on such contentious issues as missile defense and NATO expansion.
Bush said he offered Putin "logic" in urging Russia to agree to set aside the Antiballistic Missile Treaty--a move that would clear the way for full research and development of a U.S. missile shield.
But Putin rejected the appeal and pointedly called the 1972 pact the "cornerstone of the modern architecture of international security."
"You're not the only nation that cares about weapons of mass destruction," Bush quoted Putin as telling him.
The two leaders' first face-to-face encounter took place in a 16th century castle surrounded by a baroque garden in this tiny town just outside Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, the first of the former Yugoslav republics to declare its independence.
"I was able to get a sense of his soul--a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country," Bush said afterward. "And I appreciated so very much the frank dialogue."
Said Putin: "I think that we found a good basis to start building on our cooperation. We're counting on a pragmatic relationship between Russia and the United States."
Their impasses notwithstanding, the two presidents agreed to assign their senior aides to launch further discussions in search of common ground.
The two men also talked about expanding bilateral trade, and Bush said he will soon dispatch high-level business and trade delegations to Moscow, to be led by Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill and Commerce Secretary Don Evans.
"The deployment of capital is something that's very important to Russia," Bush said. "It's important to our businessmen."
He added that when Putin expressed his country's desire to enter the World Trade Organization, he vowed to help Moscow work toward membership.
When Bush emphasized his support for the eastward expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, however, Putin stressed Russia's worries about the alliance moving so close to its borders.
Also on the table during the roughly two-hour talks were regional conflicts, press freedom, arms proliferation, expanding democracy in Russia and the development of energy resources in the Caspian Basin.
"The differences in approaches do exist, and naturally, in one short moment it's impossible to overcome all of them," Putin said during a joint news conference with Bush after the talks.
But the United States and Russia, Putin said, "bear a special responsibility for maintaining the common peace and security in the world, for building a new architecture of security."
Putin also hailed Bush's earlier public statements--which the president repeated Saturday in person--that America does not view Russia as an enemy.
"This is very important to us. We value this. When a president of a great power says that he wants to see Russia as a partner, and maybe even as an ally, this is worth so much to us," he said.
Bush was even more upbeat.
"I'm convinced [Russia] can be a strong partner and friend--more so than people could imagine," he said.
"Russia and America have the opportunity to accomplish much together. We should seize it. And today we have begun. It's time to write new history--in a positive way."
Putin confessed at the news conference that the summit had gone better than he had anticipated.
"Reality was a lot bigger than expectations," he said.
Indeed, the men apparently found each other likable enough for each to invite the other to visit his home.
Bush came up with the idea of asking Putin to his 1,600-acre ranch in Crawford, Texas, shortly before the meeting, according to Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security advisor.
Then Putin reciprocated with his own, evidently impromptu invitation, she said.
Bush told reporters that he had "looked the man in the eye and found him very trustworthy," adding: "I wouldn't have invited him to my ranch if I didn't trust him.
"This was a very good meeting," Bush declared. "There was no kind of diplomatic chitchat, trying to throw each other off balance. This was a straightforward dialogue."
The degree of personal rapport that Putin and Bush achieved could be glimpsed sporadically throughout their late-afternoon outdoor meeting with the media.
While they displayed none of the bonhomie that characterized the easy relationship enjoyed by their predecessors, Bill Clinton and Boris N. Yeltsin, Bush and Putin nevertheless seemed at ease with each other.
During their meeting, as Bush recounted it, Putin mentioned having read that Bush had named his two daughters after each of their grandmothers.
Bush then playfully bragged: "Yes, I'm a great diplomat, aren't I?"
Smiling, Putin informed him: "I did the same thing."