MEDVEDEV AND OBAMA WILL BEGIN FROM SCRATCH

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DMITRY MEDVEDEV AND BARACK OBAMA DECIDED TO MEET FACE TO FACE

Presidents of Russia and the United States will meet at the G20 summit in London in early April and formulate agenda of the bilateral relations.


Russian and American presidents Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama agreed in the course of their first telephone conversation that as representatives of the post-Cold War generation, they could finally normalize the bilateral relations. The presidents decided to hold a personal meeting in the near future. It may be added that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin admitted "cautious optimism" shortly before the conversation in question and pinned the blame for the current shape of the bilateral relations on George W. Bush’s Administration.

The telephone conversation took place Monday when the newly installed US President commenced work. According to Obama’s Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, the presidents agreed that “they are presented with an opportunity to develop different US-Russian relations.”

Gibbs added that the presidents had agreed on ways and means of preventing further deterioration of the relations between Washington and Moscow and decided to formulate the future agenda of bilateral contacts together. Needless to say, “common threats” were discussed as well. Obama told his Russian counterpart that “both countries should be playing the leading part in the matter of reduction of nuclear arsenals and prevention of nuclear weapons proliferation.”

Official press release from the Kremlin made an emphasis on the willingness of the involved parties “to do everything to restore the potential of the Russian-American relations and settle matters in a constructive manner.” Giving an account of principal spheres of the future cooperation, the Kremlin suggested the necessity of “pooling efforts in the face of common tasks like coping with the global financial crisis, maintenance of the nonproliferation regime, war on international terrorism, and so on.” The press release suggested “combination of efforts to settle regional problems including the ones of the Middle East and Afghanistan.”

As far as Moscow was concerned, “… these and other issues will comprise the exhaustive agenda of the meeting between the presidents of Russia and the United States in the near future.”

Putin had elaborated on the Russian-American relations in an interview with Bloomberg the other day. “What we have heard in recent weeks or even months gives us cause for cautious optimism,” he said and added that Moscow had even received some “new signals” concerning the missile shield. Putin liked it that official Washington seemed in no hurry to expand NATO. “They are saying that it is possible to provide security for Ukraine and Georgia in various ways it and is not essential to accept them into NATO now,” he said. “We welcome that and are ready to take part in any discussion on working out the best options to ensure international security.”

How expedient was this evaluation? Asked for an answer, Sergei Rogov of the Institute of the USA and Canada (Russian Academy of Sciences) suggested that Medvedev’s conversation with Obama was a cause for “cautious optimism” indeed. These two leaders were free of confrontationist cliches and mentality typical of the previous generation, he said. “It will certainly come in handy and help them in their search for real ways of cooperation,” Rogov added.

Objective factors necessitating cooperation are meanwhile even more important. “Washington cannot help bearing in mind that life itself proved the monopolar world concept unworkable and America’s claims for the status of the only world power untenable. Obama himself acknowledged it during his campaign when he promoted closer cooperation with other world powers or centers of power. He was talking of China, Japan, and Russia,” Rogov said.

Deterioration of the arms control regime is another factor to be taken into account. It was thoroughly disrupted by Washington’s withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, suspension of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty by Russia, and frailty of the Treaty on Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles fomented by development of the third position area in Europe. As if it were not enough, START-1 will expire before long. Negotiations should be initiated and without delay or the whole arms control regime will become history, Rogov warned.

Also importantly, Obama called Afghanistan America’s high priority in the matter of dealing with international terrorism, and success in Afghanistan will be ever out of reach without cooperation with Russia. After all, Al-Qaeda and the Talibs are enemies of both the United States and Russia.

Medvedev and Obama will meet at the next G20 summit in London on April 2. This is probably when agenda of the Russian-American relations will be discussed and formulated.

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