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April 2, 2009
Obama, Russia’s Medvedev agree to cut nuclear arsenals

Barack Obama met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

On Wednesday in London, U.S. President Barack Obama met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to discuss nuclear disarmament.

At the end of the get-together, the two sides issued a statement saying “the era when our countries viewed each other as enemies is long over.” They also agreed to reduce nuclear arsenals and to meet again in Moscow this summer.

Steve LeVine covers foreign affairs for BusinessWeek and is a former correspondent with The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. He writes at “The Oil and the Glory” to discuss the broader implications of “resetting” relations with Russia.

Reset: Russia, yes; Iran, Kinda

Rose Gottemoeller, assistant secretary of state for verification, compliance and implementation, will be the chief U.S. negotiator for nuclear arms reductions with Russia. The goal is to sign a completed deal by Dec. 15, when Start I expires.

That’s not a surprise — Gottemoeller negotiated one of Washington’s single most-important successes in the post-Soviet era, which was the removal during the Clinton administration of 4,000 nuclear warheads from Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus.

It’s also not a surprise that presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev today made the re-negotiation of Start I the core of a reset of U.S.-Russia relations. Arms reduction, highly favored in Russia, “is the most productive vehicle to start with,” Angela Stent, director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies at Georgetown University, told me by phone. “It doesn’t mean we will be finished by December, but the statement provides which systems will be included” in the talks.

Yet in a post-mortem with reporters, two senior U.S. officials seemed downright giddy after today’s meeting between Obama and Medvedev in London, where the Group of 20 summit will be held tomorrow. One reason was that the two leaders were even able to agree on a final agenda going forward; and second was a stronger agreement on how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program.

All of this has an economic component — energy. Geopolitics in the region are highly inter-connected: Better relations with Russia can help fertilize the ground toward a thaw of U.S. relations with Iran, which could then significantly improve global natural gas supplies, particularly to Europe, which is highly dependent on — who else? — Russia. It’s all fairly circular.

Read more about U.S. relations with Iran at the original post.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user World Economic Forum under a Creative Commons license.

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