First Day of Obama’s Visit to Russia: Issues Discussed
President ObamaWe are confident that we can continue to build on the excellent discussions that we had in London, and that on a whole host of issues – including security issues, economic issues, energy issues, environmental issues – that the United States and Russia have more in common than they have differences, and that if we work hard during these next few days we can make extraordinary progress that would benefit the people of both countries.
The US President Barack Obama began the first day of his two-day official visit to Russia on July 6. Obama will meet with the current President of Russia Dmitri Medvedev as well as the Prime Minister and former President Vladimir Putin. Obama’s agenda concerns numerous issues that have yet to be settled with the Russian administration, key among which are the US-backed installation of the anti-missile system in central Europe and NATO's military trainings in Russia’s neighbouring republics of Ukraine and Georgia. In addition, Obama and Medvedev will discuss arms cuts and cooperation efforts in Afghanistan.
Monday’s meeting in Moscow won’t be the first one between Obama and Medvedev. The two presidents met at the G20 Summit in London back in April of this year. It appears Obama is much more on the same page with Medvedev than he is with Putin, who he claims “has one foot in the old ways of doing business and one foot in the new” and has been using a “Cold War approach” in dealings with the United States.
The things that will be discussed as part of Obama’s visit today:
--Russia allowing US Air Force to fly over Russian territory to transport personnel and supplies for its mission in Afghanistan. Up to 12 trips a day (or 4,500 military flights per year) will be allowed thanks to this breakthrough agreement
--Both sides significantly reducing nuclear arms, some say by as much as a third to below 1,675 nuclear warhead units within seven years of the signing of a treaty. The two presidents were in a bit of a rush to reach some sort of agreement concerning the nuclear weapons because the 1991 START 1 nuclear treaty was set to expire in December of this year. The US and Russia account for more than 90 per cent of the world's nuclear weapons
--Although nothing decisive was agreed upon regarding the installation of the American anti-missile shield in central Europe, he two sides also agreed to continue discussing cooperation on missile defense. Obama has agreed to review the missile defense plan but is not prepared to abandon it. Russia, on the other hand, views the missile shield is a serious threat to Russian sovereignty. Not much has been said yet about NATO's trainings in Ukraine and Georgia amidst escalating tensions between these former Soviet republics and Russia. Before today's visit, Obama's administration has eased its insistence that Ukraine and Georgia join NATO.
--Russia restoring the U.S.-Russia commission to find missing Prisoners of War and military personnel from WW1, Vietnam and Afghanistan. Russia backed out from the commission in 2004, restricting direct access for US researchers to the information on missing US military personnel
--The creation of a joint commission to improve trade relations
--Cooperation on Iran and North Korea
Obama’s visit to Russia is expected to bring more than the resolutions to some of the long-standing political issues dividing Russia and the US. The visit of the American President will also bring $1.5 billion worth of business deals to Russia. Companies like PepsiCo and Boeing are especially interested in investing in Russia. Meanwhile, Russian oil giant LUKOIL wants a piece of the US market. Business executives are set to meet with both Presidents in a parallel business summit.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not accompany President Obama to Russia as she is still recovering from an elbow injury that she sustained on her way to the White House in mid-June.
Unprecedented security measures have been taken by Moscow to ensure the safety of President Obama and his escort. It is estimated the number of security personnel servicing President Obama’s visit to Russia exceeds 10,000.