- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 24, 2010

President Obama on Thursday declared he had succeeded in “resetting” the U.S.-Russia relationship and reiterated his support for Russia’s entry into the World Trade Organization.

His Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, agreed to allow a resumption of U.S. poultry exports to his country.

Russia had been the largest international buyer of U.S. chicken before it banned the poultry products this year, claiming a chemical used in the U.S. violated its food safety rules.

Despite general agreement between the two leaders, Mr. Obama and Mr. Medvedev acknowledged after their meeting at the White House that there are still some issues that divide the former Cold War foes.

“Our two countries continue to disagree on certain issues, such as Georgia,” Mr. Obama said, adding that he and Mr. Medvedev had addressed the issues candidly.

By moving forward on areas on which the U.S. and Russia are in agreement, “we have succeeded in resetting our relationship, which benefits regional and global security,” Mr. Obama said.

Describing his discussions with the Russian leader as excellent, Mr. Obama said such talks would not have been possible around the time he assumed office. He said the relationship between the U.S. and Russia “had drifted, perhaps to its lowest point since the Cold War.”

Relations between the two countries deteriorated after the 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia.

“Our two countries are more secure and the world is safer when the United States and Russia get on well together,” Mr. Obama said.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Medvedev said their goal is to ensure quick ratification of the new arms reduction START treaty in Washington and Moscow. The two leaders signed the treaty in Prague in April. The New START Treaty reduces limits on U.S. and Russian deployed strategic warheads by approximately one-third.

Thursday’s White House meeting was the seventh between the two presidents since Mr. Obama took office.

The warmth that has developed between the two leaders was evident, including when Mr. Obama treated Mr. Medvedev to a cheeseburger lunch at Ray’s Hell Burger in Arlington, Va. The two shared fries.

“Probably it’s not quite healthy, but it’s very tasty … and you can feel the spirit of America,” Mr. Medvedev said of the meal.

After speaking to reporters in the East Room of the White House, Mr. Obama and Mr. Medvedev took a short walk to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to meet with U.S. and Russian business leaders.

Mr. Obama said his administration is committed not just to resetting the relationship with Russia but broadening it as well. “The U.S.-Russia relationship has to be more than just about security and arms control,” he said.

As a result, the discussions were focused on the economy and expanding trade and commerce.

The U.S. and Russian presidents said they had resolved most of the obstacles in the path of Russia’s entry into the WTO. They have instructed their negotiators to work as quickly as possible to wrap up what Mr. Obama said were “difficult issues” that will require “some significant work,” but Mr. Medvedev described as “minor problems.”

“A lot of the technical issues, the resolution of those technical issues … may be in the hands of the Russian government,” Mr. Obama said.

There “may be certain international standards that require modifications in Russian law,” he said. “We are going to do everything we can to get this done as quickly as possible.”

Mr. Medvedev said the negotiators had been instructed to work as fast as possible, and added that he hoped negotiations would be wrapped up by the end of September.

Russia belongs in the WTO … that’s good for Russia, it’s good for America and it’s good for the world economy,” Mr. Obama said.

Speaking later at the Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Medvedev said his administration is “convinced that the U.S.-Russia economic potential is great.”

Russia has agreed to buy 50 Boeing 737 aircraft worth $4 billion that Mr. Obama said would add up to 44,000 new jobs in the U.S.

The two leaders also discussed recent international developments including the fresh round of U.N. sanctions on Iran, tension on the Korean Peninsula and unrest in Kyrgyzstan.

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