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Positive signals for improving Russian-American relations

President Dmitri Medvedev and President Barack Obama will meet for the first time on April 1 in London, before the G-20 summit dedicated to countering the financial crisis. This announcement has been made by Medvedev himself, at his meeting in Moscow yesterday with members of an American independent advisory commission.


President Dmitri Medvedev and President Barack Obama will meet for the first time on April 1 in London, before the G-20 summit dedicated to countering the financial crisis. This announcement has been made by Medvedev himself, at his meeting in Moscow yesterday with members of an American independent advisory commission on US policy on Russia. This commission was established under the Bush Administration in August 2008, to prepare reports on Russia policy for the administration and Congress. Its co-chairmen are Chuck Hagel (Republican) and Gary Hart (Democrat).

President Medvedev opened his meeting with commission members and several American political analysts by saying: “Unfortunately, relations between us have deteriorated quite substantially in recent years. We regret this. I believe we have every chance of turning a new leaf in Russian-American relations.” He noted that “a great deal depends” on Russian-American relations, including “non-proliferation of the world’s fundamental forms of weaponry, the war on terrorism, and economic growth.” There are some grounds for optimism: “The signals we’re receiving now from the United States – I mean, primarily the signals I’m getting from President Obama – seem fairly positive to me.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Geneva on March 6. The tone of the meeting was positive. They discussed bilateral relations in the spirit of VP Joseph Biden’s “press the reset button” comment.

Among the priorities named by Clinton were negotiations on the START I treaty (which expires on December 5) and general cooperation on nuclear arms reduction and WMD non-proliferation.

Lavrov emphasized that “we are perfectly capable of agreeing on a common denominator, or perhaps even with some positive balance, for our strategic relations on the issues of START I and missile defense.” He said: “I think that when our presidents meet in London, they will make a strategic choice in favor of establishing constructive relations between Russia and the United States.”

Viktor Kremeniuk, head of the USA and Canada Institute: “In contrast to George W. Bush, President Barack Obama is aiming to develop relations not only with Washington’s closest allies in the NATO bloc, but also with countries like Russia and China. Recent statements from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other senior US officials indicate that the White House does want to develop relations with Moscow. Although there are no grounds for calling this a breakthrough as yet, Barack Obama is capable of performing the reset. The new US administration is striving to cooperate with Russia already, in several areas: normalizing the situation in Afghanistan, delivering supplies to the international contingent there, and regulating the Iranian nuclear problem.”

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