Medvedev Upbeat on Ties With U.S.
Published: March 24, 2009 (Issue # 1459)
MOSCOW — Some of the biggest names in U.S. diplomacy of the past decades met with President Dmitry Medvedev and other Kremlin leaders Friday in an effort to improve frosty relations that experts say could threaten many U.S. foreign policy goals.
In some of his most upbeat comments about U.S. relations since President Barack Obama took office, Medvedev said his meetings with current and former U.S. officials in recent weeks “reflect the goal of our nations to significantly improve ties.”
After greeting a delegation led by former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Medvedev praised the U.S. initiative, first announced by Vice President Joe Biden, to “press the reset button” on U.S.-Russia relations.
“The surprising term ‘reset’ ... really reflects the essence of the changes we would like to see,” Medvedev said. “We are counting on a reset. I hope it will take place.”
Kissinger, an architect of U.S. Cold War strategy toward the Soviet Union, said he and a group — including former Secretary of State George Shultz and former Senator Sam Nunn — had discussed energy and other “strategic issues” with Medvedev. “I’m happy to report that the differences were not so remarkable and the agreements were considerable,” Kissinger said.
Kissinger also told Medvedev that the U.S. group hoped that his April meeting with Obama on the sidelines of the Group of 20 meeting in London would help improve ties. “We believe in the generally optimistic attitude, and we hope ... that the meeting between you and our president will begin a new period in our relationship and will lead to concrete results,” Kissinger said.
Kissinger also met privately with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Thursday, in a meeting shown briefly on state-run television.
Experts say chilly bilateral relations have complicated efforts to limit the spread of nuclear weapons, ease tensions in Eastern Europe and expand the war in Afghanistan. Kissinger’s group has pushed for drastic reductions in global nuclear arsenals. And reviving talks on limits to nuclear arms, especially START I, which expires in December, is at the top of the U.S. agenda.
But the broader aim appears to be repairing the damage to relations over the past eight years between Washington and Moscow, which are at their lowest point since the early 1980s — a point highlighted by both Russian and U.S. officials in Moscow.
“I see we are in a race between cooperation and catastrophe,” Nunn told reporters at a briefing attended by the other Americans as well as Russian officials former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov and former Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.
“We are certain that the low point of this period of chill in our relations is behind us,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters Friday. “The reset ... has really begun.”
While the Kremlin has welcomed the U.S. initiatives, it has also sent signals that it is up to Washington to make concessions, not Moscow, if relations are to improve.
Ryabkov expressed confidence that Moscow and Washington can resolve deep differences over the proposed U.S. missile defense facilities in Central Europe and forge a new treaty to replace START.