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Obama seeks new start in US-Russia relations

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STEVEN R. HURST
July 5, 2009
— Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev end a seven-year hiatus in U.S.-Russian summitry on Monday, with both men declaring their determination to further cut nuclear arsenals and repair a badly damaged relationship.

Both sides appear to want to use progress on arms control as a pathway into possible agreement on other, far trickier issues — like Iran and the tiny country of Georgia, a former Soviet republic. Those difficulties and many others have soured a promising linkage in the first years after the Cold War and pushed ties between Moscow and Washington to depths not seen in more than two decades.


Obama arrives here Monday afternoon, the first stop on a weeklong trip that will also take him to Italy and Ghana.


"It's not, in our view, a zero-sum game, that if it's two points for Russia it's negative two for us, but there are ways that we can cooperate to advance our interests and, at the same time, do things with the Russians that are good for them, as well," Obama's top assistant on Russia, Michael McFaul, said in a pre-summit briefing.


He seemed to be of one mind with the Russian leader, Medvedev.


"Russia and America need new, common, mutually beneficial projects in business, science and culture," the Russian president said in his weekly Internet address. "I hope that this sincere desire to open a new chapter in Russian-American cooperation will be brought into fruition."


Two things appear certain to be on the agenda:


—The Russians have said they will agree to allow the United States to use their territory and air space to move munitions and arms to U.S. and NATO forces fighting Taliban Islamic extremists in Afghanistan. The Kremlin announced the deal three-days before the summit as a significant sweetener for Obama.


—A directive by both presidents for negotiators to work on a nuclear agreement that would further reduce warheads and replace the 1991 START I accord that expires Dec. 5. Both sides are agreed in principle to cut warheads from more than 2,000 each to as low as 1,500 apiece.


Those deals are likely to be announced at an Obama-Medvedev news conference.



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