- The Washington Times - Monday, July 6, 2009

MOSCOW — President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday signed a framework committing to reducing nuclear weapons but put off the thornier issue of U.S. missile defense plans, as both leaders said they have re-established a partnership that Mr. Obama said had seen a “sense of drift” recently.

Meeting for hours in Moscow, Mr. Obama and Mr. Medvedev committed to allow U.S. troops and their equipment to fly over Russia on the way to Afghanistan, and proposed a worldwide summit on nuclear cooperation to update the nonproliferation regime that has frayed in recent years.

Mr. Obama also said they will complete the binding nuclear arms reduction treaty by the end of this year that will reduce nuclear warheads to between 1,500 and 1,675 and lower the number of missiles capable of delivering warheads to between 500 and 1,100 — the lowest agreed-to limits in the two nations’ dealings.

“We have found, I think, an ability to work together extremely effectively. So yes, I trust President Medvedev to not only listen and to negotiate constructive, but also to follow through,” Mr. Obama said at a joint press conference with Mr. Medvedev.

Obama, Medvedev: A lot to talk about
A chill in air for Obama in Russia

It was a reminder of former President George W. Bush’s meeting with former Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2001, when Mr. Bush said he had found a good strategic international partner in the Russian leader, pronouncing he was “able to get a sense of his soul.”

Mr. Obama and Mr. Medvedev seemed at ease, even chatting as their deputies signed agreements on military cooperation and other civil affairs. At one point Mr. Obama appeared to be asking Mr. Medvedev about the elaborately decorated room in the Kremlin in which the two men faced the press.

A reporter asked Mr. Obama if he knew who really holds power in Russian: Mr. Medvedev or Mr. Putin, who is currently prime minister. Mr. Medvedev smiled at the question, and Mr. Obama said that while he plans to meet Tuesday with Mr. Putin, his counterpart as leader is Mr. Medvedev.

Some experts have said Mr. Obama is erring by not spending more time with Mr. Putin than their brief meeting, but others say Mr. Obama’s schedule shows he is trying to boost Mr. Medvedev’s fortunes.

The two men acknowledged differences, particularly on missile defense. The Bush administration proposed a missile defense system in Eastern Europe, and the Obama administration is still considering the move — something that is anathema to Mr. Medvedev and Mr. Putin.

As a concession, Mr. Obama agreed that defensive systems must be linked with discussions on offensive nuclear arms, but he said the U.S. plans for a defense system are aimed at nations such as Iran and North Korea, not at Russia, which he said will retain more than enough weapons to have a credible deterrent capability.

“Linkage is being stated, and this opens up the opportunity of bringing positions closer,” Mr. Medvedev said.

Mr. Obama said the two nations’ agreement on Afghanistan will help U.S. troops and weapons reach the battle zone, and thanked Mr. Medvedev for the agreement.

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