MONDAY, JULY 6TH, 2009 AT 2:07 PM
In Russia, Defining the Reset
Posted by Jesse Lee
The President went to Russia as the first stop in his trip this week, continuing to work towards a "reset" of relations towards a more constructive path. This morning he joined President Dmitry A. Medvedev for a joint press conference, and summed up the meeting they had just held:
We've just concluded a very productive meeting. As President Medvedev just indicated, the President and I agreed that the relationship between Russia and the United States has suffered from a sense of drift. We resolved to reset U.S.-Russian relations, so that we can cooperate more effectively in areas of common interest. Today, after less than six months of collaboration, we've done exactly that by taking concrete steps forward on a range of issues, while paving the way for more progress in the future. And I think it's particularly notable that we've addressed the top priorities -- these are not second-tier issues, they are fundamental to the security and the prosperity of both countries.
The President wasted no time, forging a strengthened consensus on Afghanistan, creating a new strategic framework for military-to-military engagement between the United States and the Russian Federation, a recommitment to cooperation on reducing nuclear proliferation and in particular on a new, comprehensive, legally binding agreement on reducing and limiting strategic offensive arms to replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which expires on December 5, 2009. In addition the two Presidents agreed to create a Bilateral Presidential Commission, which they will chair and which will be coordinated by Secretary of State Clinton and Foreign Minister Lavrov, with working groups on issues ranging from agriculture to energy to space cooperation and cultural exchanges.
(President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sign documents on nuclear arms reduction
before their news conference at the Kremlin in Moscow Monday, July 6, 2009.
Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
In an interview with the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta before the meeting, the President was asked to flesh out what this reset would mean:
Question: "Restarting" the relationship implies cooperating with Russia in those areas where it is possible. Does this mean weaker attention to Russia’s observation of civil rights and liberties, and to persecution against and murders of journalists? Specifically, to [the need to] apprehend and punish those who ordered and committed the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Of course not. I seek to reset relations with Russia because I believe that Americans and Russians have many common interests, interests that our governments recently have not pursued as actively as we could have. For instance, I believe that Americans and Russians both would benefit from fewer nuclear weapons in the world, greater control over nuclear materials around the world, a defeat of extremist elements in Afghanistan and Pakistan, an Iran that produces nuclear energy but not nuclear weapons, and a North Korea that refrains from launching missiles and exploding nuclear weapons and instead returns to the negotiating table. I also believe that Americans and Russians have a common interest in the development of rule of rule, the strengthening of democracy, and the protection of human rights. As I said in my inaugural address: "To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist." I then emphasized in my Cairo speech that "I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. These are not just American ideas; they are human rights." These are ideas embraced by your president and your people. I agree with President Medvedev when he said that "Freedom is better than the absence of freedom." So, I see no reason why we cannot aspire together to strengthen democracy, human rights, and the rule of law as part of our "reset."