Broad U.S.-Russia Agreement in Works
Two Leaders to Unveil Set of Principles
Wednesday, April 1, 2009; Page A08
LONDON, March 31 -- In their first face-to-face meeting, President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev are expected to announce agreement Wednesday on a broad statement of principles for cooperation between the two nations aimed at easing an increasingly strained relationship.
Obama left the United States on Tuesday morning, bound for a series of meetings with European leaders aimed at restoring health to the global economy, confronting terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and repairing America's relations with its allies abroad.
He arrived here Tuesday evening with first lady Michelle Obama. A political superstar among Europeans, he nonetheless was greeted by protesters throughout the city, some of whom blame American irresponsibility for sparking the financial crisis gripping the globe.
British police began assembling a massive presence of officers on the streets of London to provide security for Obama and other national leaders attending the Group of 20 economic summit here Thursday, and to guard against problems at a vast array of planned protests.
The direct dialogue with Medvedev, scheduled for midday in London, is a key piece of Obama's promise for a new brand of diplomacy following a period of heightened tensions between the United States and Europe under his predecessor.
The two leaders are expected to announce talks on a new agreement to reduce quantities of nuclear weapons. But U.S. officials described a separate statement from the two as far more wide-ranging, indicating a thawing of relations between the countries on a host of issues.
"We proposed a very extensive action plan and they have adopted these areas of work and commitment," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters from The Hague, where she is holding meetings with her counterparts. "There is no guarantee on the outcome, but everything is on the table that we think is important to our relationship. They agree."
Michael A. McFaul, the National Security Council's senior director for Russia, flew to The Hague for final negotiations over the joint statement the two presidents will make. Clinton called the resulting document a very good set of discussion points for the two leaders.
"Now it is up to them whether they are going to be guided by all the work we have done on both sides, but we hope they will be, and we think it will be a very productive meeting," Clinton said.
But White House officials also made clear that Obama had not given away the store. Briefing reporters on Air Force One during the transatlantic flight, press secretary Robert Gibbs said: "I don't think that anybody goes into meetings with another country believing that the best way to change the relationship is to give the other side whatever they want. That's certainly not the intention of the president or this administration."
As the talks approached, the Russians struck a tone of cautious optimism but have said there are still flash points that needed to be addressed. They remain strongly opposed to plans for a missile defense shield in Europe and argue that any future expansion of NATO would divide Europe rather than offer it greater security.
The Russians have reached an understanding with Iran over the sale of surface-to-air missiles but said they have yet to deliver on shipments. Though the United States has pressed Russia to exert more pressure on Iran to abandon nuclear-weapons research, Moscow insists there is little more it can do, saying its nuclear dialogue with Tehran is based solely on energy production.