OBAMA WILL COME TO MOSCOW

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Preparations under way for President Obama’s visit to Moscow

US President Barack Obama will make his first official visit to Russia on July 6-8. He regards talks with President Dmitri Medvedev as more important than informal contacts with G-8 partners on the eve of the summit in Italy. The presidents of Russia and the USA will work directly on “pressing the reset button” in bilateral relations.


The Kremlin press service has announced that US President Barack Obama will make his first official visit to Russia on July 6-8. He regards talks with President Dmitri Medvedev as more important than informal contacts with G-8 partners on the eve of the summit in Italy. The presidents of Russia and the USA will work directly on “pressing the reset button” in bilateral relations. They have decided against establishing a standing body such as the Gore-Chernomyrdin commission.

A senior source in Russian diplomatic circles told us that Obama’s visit was initially scheduled for July 5-6. “The G-8 summit in Italy opens on July 8,” says our source, who asked to remain anonymous. “As a rule, G-8 leaders gather for the summit a day before the official opening, using this time for informal bilateral contacts.” But the Russian and US presidents have decided to forego this opportunity. Medvedev and Obama will arrive in Italy just in time for the official opening – coming straight from the negotiation table in Moscow.

Alexei Malashenko from the Carnegie Moscow Center says that the Medvedev-Obama talks promise to be “the most productive talks in several decades.” During those three days in Moscow, Malashenko predicts they will be able to “discuss all cooperation-favorable issues in bilateral relations” – from conflict regulation in Afghanistan to coordinating diplomatic activity in the Middle East. But the main topic for the talks will be preparing a new Russian-American treaty on strategic offensive arms limitation.

“The outcome of Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s visit to the USA inspire optimism regarding both sides being willing to work constructively on a second version of the START treaty,” says Malashenko. Lavrov was also optimistic about the results of his meetings with Obama and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “The American approach seems very constructive,” said Lavrov.

There is already some news in the process of establishing a dialogue framework between Moscow and Washington. In particular, the two sides don’t intend to bring back a standing commission chaired by the Russian prime minister and the US vice president. Rumors had been circulating since the start of spring about a Putin-Biden commission, based on the Gore-Chernomyrdin commission. Since neither Medvedev nor Obama have a great deal of foreign affairs experience, it seemed logical for them to delegate dialogue to the more experienced Vladimir Putin and Joseph Biden.

All the same, Lavrov said that the two countries have decided against this format for the time being. The presidents will handle bilateral relations issues themselves, with assistance from their foreign affairs and defense ministers. It has been decided to resume regular meetings between these ministers, in the “two plus two” format.

While the organizational aspect of the upcoming Russian-American talks may be regarded as mostly settled, the same cannot be said for their content as yet. Work on the agenda for the Medvedev-Obama meeting will start on May 18, when the first round of negotiations toward a new START treaty opens in Moscow. The two sides will attempt to find some points of contact – so that the two presidents can start “resetting” bilateral relations in July.

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