Russia’s Medvedev calls for talks with Obama

The Dmitry Medvedev that made his first appearance in the U.S. capital as Russia’s president was not the same man Russians usually see at home.

He was confident, even charming, in reaching out Saturday in a spirit of cooperation to the incoming administration of Barack Obama.

He showed none of the bluster and tough talk that he has adopted in recent months in an awkward imitation of Vladimir Putin, his predecessor and mentor who still leads the country as prime minister.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev prepares to speak at the Washington ...
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev prepares to speak at the Washington Club in Washington, November 15, 2008. Medvedev visited Washington to attend the Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy on Saturday.REUTERS/Yuri Gripas (UNITED STATES)

Putin’s choice of Medvedev to succeed him earlier this year was seen as an effort to re-brand Russia, to improve its relations with the West and Western investors.

But the August war with Georgia, a former Soviet republic that has allied itself with Washington, led to a change in course. Medvedev quickly began to sound like Putin in casting the West as the aggressor.

The Nov. 4 election of Obama seemed to offer an opportunity for Russia and the United States to make a fresh start. But instead of welcoming Obama’s election, Medvedev issued a challenge.

In a Nov. 5 speech, he warned that Russia would move short-range missiles to NATO’s borders to “neutralize” a planned U.S. missile defense system in Eastern Europe if necessary.

Medvedev has since backed off slightly. He stressed Saturday that Russia would not act unless the United States took the first step and expressed hope that the new U.S. administration will be open to negotiations.

Medvedev said there is a lack of trust between Russia and the United States, but it is “in our power” to create a partnership.

He called for talks with Obama as soon as possible after he becomes president Jan. 20 and suggested that missile defense would be a good place to start.

“I hope that the new president, the new administration will have a desire to discuss this,” Medvedev told members of the Council on Foreign Relations. “At least the first signals that we have received indicate that our new partners are thinking about the problems and do not simply plan to rubber stamp the plans.”

The Russian president, who was in Washington for the global financial summit, gave a short speech and then settled into an armchair next to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to continue the discussion with her. The choice of Albright carried additional significance since she acted as a surrogate for Obama at the summit.

The planned missile defense system was championed by the Bush administration as necessary to protect Europe from Iran. Russia, however, sees it as a Cold War-style project that could weaken its nuclear deterrent.

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One Response to “Russia’s Medvedev calls for talks with Obama”

  1. Lasitha Silva Says:

    Russia should focus on economy and building up to a united Russia. This must not be like Putin’s plans to become president again but a pure, people centered pathway.

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