Obama Outlines New Vision Of U.S.-Russia Ties Wrapping up a two-day visit to Moscow, President Obama painted a picture of the U.S. and Russia as partners aligned against common threats. But he acknowledged after talks with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that on divisive issues there won't be "a meeting of the minds anytime soon."
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Obama Outlines New Vision Of U.S.-Russia Ties

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Obama Outlines New Vision Of U.S.-Russia Ties

Obama Outlines New Vision Of U.S.-Russia Ties

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Today in Moscow, President Obama outlined his vision of cooperation between the U.S. and Russia. Mr. Obama met in the morning with Russia's powerful prime minister, Vladimir Putin. Then he extended his message beyond the government, as NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY: After a day of high-level statesmanship, President Obama returned to his roots as a community organizer today. He met with a group of nonprofit leaders from the U.S. and Russia, and said improved relations between their two countries won't come from the top down.

President BARACK OBAMA: We not only need a reset button between the American and Russian government, but we need a fresh start between our societies. More dialogue, more listening, more cooperation in confronting common challenges.

HORSLEY: Mr. Obama has said throughout this visit that Americans and Russians have more in common than sets them apart. He told the 20-something graduates of Moscow's New Economic School, theirs is the last generation to be born in a world divided along Cold War fault lines.

Pres. OBAMA: The future does not belong to those who gather armies on a field of battle or bury missiles in the ground. The future belongs to young people with an education and the imagination to create. That is the source of power in this century.

HORSLEY: Throughout the day, Mr. Obama painted a picture of the U.S. and Russia, not as adversaries or competitors, but rather as partners aligned against common threats, including nuclear proliferation. In the old days, he said, the two superpowers could rely on their mutual destructive capability to prevent a nuclear strike. But if nuclear weapons spread to more countries or even terrorist groups, Mr. Obama is less confident they'll show the same restraint.

Pres. OBAMA: In the short period since the end of the Cold War, we've already seen India, Pakistan and North Korea conduct nuclear tests. Without a fundamental change, do any of us truly believe that the next two decades will not bring about the further spread of these nuclear weapons?

HORSLEY: A Russia human rights activist praised Mr. Obama today for his decision to close the Guantanamo prison camp and outlaw harsh interrogation tactics. Mr. Obama promised the U.S. would continue to champion the cause of human rights in Russia and around the world.

Pres. OBAMA: I don't think these are American ideals, and I don't think they are the monopoly of one country. They're universal values. They're human rights. And that's why the United States of America will support them everywhere.

HORSLEY: The U.S. and Russia continue to have strong disagreements on some issues, notably the treatment of Russia's neighbors, Georgia and Ukraine, which Moscow still views as part of its own sphere of influence. But the two sides will keep talking this week at the G8 summit in Italy. And Obama advisor Mike McFaul says relations with Russia have improved considerably from where they were just six months ago.

Mr. MIKE MCFAUL (President Obama Advisor): So we didn't solve everything in two days, that would be impossible, but I think we came a long way in terms of developing both a relationship that advances our national interests and also laying out a philosophy about foreign policy that includes engaging with society.

HORSLEY: Asked which of the two onetime rivals had won the Moscow summit, McFaul said that's exactly the kind of thinking the U.S. is trying to get away from.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, Moscow.

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