( AP ) - President Bush and the Czech Republic's leaders on Tuesday defended plans to base part of a U.S. missile shield here despite fierce opposition from Russia.
"The people of the Czech Republic don't have to choose between being a friend of the United States or a friend with Russia," Bush said in his stop at this former Soviet satellite. "You can be both. We don't believe in a zero-sum world."
Bush, in the Czech Republic as part of an eight-day trip to Europe, spoke as Russia's opposition to the proposed defense system mounts. Russia believes the shield in Eastern Europe is meant for it, and says it has no choice to boost its own military potential in response.
Bush dismissed those concerns. He said he will make his case directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin later this week on the sidelines of the Group of Eight summit.
"My message will be Vladimir - I call him Vladimir - that you shouldn't fear a missile defense system," Bush said. "As a matter of fact, why don't you cooperate with us on a missile defense system. Why don't you participate with the United States."
The Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, said it was significant that Bush promised to make "maximum efforts" to explain his position to Putin.
"We have pointed it out to our guest that it is very important that we win maximum support for this project of the Czech Republic who are very sensitive to those issues," Klaus said.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek endorsed the plan as well.
Most Czechs aren't happy about the proposal for a U.S. anti-missile radar base to be built at the Brdy military zone southwest of the capital. Recent polls here show more than 60 percent of the public in opposition.