Moscow and Washington pin hopes on the U.S.-Russia Presidential Commission.

US State Secretary Hillary Clinton will be leaving Washington on a week-long European tour this Friday. She will visit Great Britain and Ireland and finish the tour in Russia (October 12 to 15). What information is available to Nezavisimaya Gazeta indicates that Clinton will be accompanied by an impressive delegation including Assistant State Secretary William Burns and President Barack Obama’s Aide Michael McFall. Launch of the U.S.-Russia Presidential Commission is expected to become the central event of the visit. The new mechanism will operate on a level lower than what the presidents conceived.

Ian C. Kelly, official spokesman for the US Department of State, said Clinton intended to meet with Russian officials and discuss the START follow-on treaty talks under way. Nonproliferation, Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs, and counterterrorism will be discussed too.

It seems, however, that Clinton’s visit will be centered around the launch of the U.S.-Russia Presidential Commission. Russia and the United States still disagree over strategic arms reduction so that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Clinton could be trusted to thrash out a compromise. Sergei Rogov, Director of the Institute of the USA and Canada, assumed that a special team would be set up to handle ABM aspects of cooperation, a team functioning beyond the Geneva START process.

Andrei Nesterenko of the Russian Foreign Ministry called discussion of the practical activity of the U.S.-Russia Presidential Commission one of the central items on the agenda. Dmitry Medvedev and Obama decided on a commission they themselves would head and coordinate at the meeting this July. At first, the U.S.-Russia Presidential Commission included 13 working groups on nuclear energy and security; arms control and international security; foreign policy and counterterrorism; dealing with drugs; business contacts and trade and economic relations; energy and environment; agriculture; health care; preventing and handling emergencies; civil society; education.

Unfortunately, not even three months sufficed to tackle some organizational matters. At first, the presidents expected that working groups would be headed by mostly Cabinet ministers. Some working groups meanwhile will include representatives of general public and free-lance experts as well. (The working group dealing with civil society is one of them. It is headed by Senior Assistant Director of the Presidential Administration Vladislav Surkov and McFall.)

“This mechanism is not a copy of the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission,” Rogov said because the new structure included economic, political, humanitarian, and military components. “If it works indeed, it will serve as a stabilizer in the bilateral relations.”

Aleksei Bogaturov of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations welcomed the forthcoming launch of the U.S.-Russia Presidential Commission too. “As things stand, the Russian-American relations are like bones without meat ever growing on them. Endless declarations, countless quarrels and peace-making, and little if anything beyond that in terms of practical economic accomplishments,” Bogaturov said.