Obama To Meet With Russia's President Medvedev
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
As NPR's Moscow correspondent Gregory Feifer reports, it won't be easy because the two sides face serious divisions.
GREGORY FEIFER: When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton first met her Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, last month, Washington hoped it didn't set a bad precedent for a new dialogue.
HILLARY CLINTON: We want to reset our relationship and...
SERGEY LAVROV: Let's do it together.
CLINTON: So, we will do it together.
FEIFER: Clinton presented Lavrov with a mock reset button, then asked him whether the term reset had been correctly translated into Russian.
LAVROV: You get it wrong.
CLINTON: I got it wrong.
LAVROV: It should be (Russian spoken).
FEIFER: You could almost hear the cringing in the State Department. But the meeting went off well. Russia now says it's interested in changing the tone of relations. But the Kremlin says if ties are to improve, the onus rests squarely on Washington to change its policies.
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: (Russian spoken)
FEIFER: Russia's ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Ragozin, characterizes them now as being in the middle of a minefield.
DMITRY ROGOZIN: (Through translator) The previous U.S. administration did a lot to put them there. Moving forward now will be very difficult, and to start will require diffusing the mines.
FEIFER: Among the obstacles, Rogozin blamed Washington for dragging its heels on the item at the top of the agenda tomorrow - a new nuclear arms agreement to replace the START Treaty that expires this year. But Rogozin says he's optimistic Mr. Obama's meeting with Medvedev will lead to concrete results. Foreign policy expert, Alexander Canavoliv(ph), agrees.
ALEXANDER CANAVOLIV: It was a pleasant surprise to me, that President Obama included in his urgent and immediate foreign policy agenda, problem of relations with Russia. I didn't expect such an inclusion.
FEIFER: Washington says it needs Russia's help to solve some of its top foreign policy issues, such as Afghanistan and the standoff over Iran's nuclear program. But scholar, Andre Piantkoski(ph), warns that's a mistaken belief.
ANDRE PIANTKOSKI: The problem is that Moscow will not provide any help in Iran and Afghanistan because Moscow has different agenda.
FEIFER: Russia is building a nuclear power plant in Iran, to which it's also sold anti-aircraft missiles. And earlier this year, Moscow complicated U.S. efforts in Afghanistan by pressuring nearby Kyrgyzstan to close a key U.S. airbase. Piantkoski says more than that, indications Washington will back away from building a missile defense system in Europe have done nothing to dampen Moscow's fury. He said the Kremlin needs to paint the United States as an enemy to distract Russians from the effects of the global financial crisis.
PIANTKOSKI: Obama administration doesn't understand that how many concessions it will do to Moscow, the next day Kremlin invent another grievances, another problems.
FEIFER: Gregory Feifer, NPR News, Moscow.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.