Asked what kind of reassurances Obama was prepared to offer Russia on these two issues, a White House official said that was not the approach the president would take.
"We're definitely not going to use the word 'reassure' in the way that we talk about these things. We're not going to reassure or give or trade anything with the Russians regarding NATO expansion or missile defense," McFaul said. "We're going to define our national interests, and by that I also mean the interests of our allies in Europe with reference to these two particular questions."
On this trip, Obama faces not just one Russian leader but two -- holding separate meetings with Medvedev, who is formally in charge, and former president and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who analysts say may hold the most power.
"Obama would certainly make better use of his time spending more time with Mr. Putin and really trying to understand what makes this guy tick," said Andrew Kuchins of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Obama avoided the pointed question, instead saying noting Medvedev's and Putin's titles and that Russia allocates power in their own way.
"[M]y interest is in dealing directly with my counterpart, the president, but also to reach out to Prime Minister Putin and all other influential sectors in Russian Society so that I can get a full picture of the needs of the Russian people and the concerns of the Russian people," the U.S. president said.
On Tuesday, Obama also meets with former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev and delivers what the White House is billing as a major address at the commencement of the New Economic School.
Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough said the speech would focus on U.S.-Russia relations, the global economy and "how great powers see this new century."
In the afternoon, Obama shifts his attention to Russia's civil society, meeting with business leaders, heads of civic organizations and opposition leaders.
"The idea here is that this is not 1974, this is not when we go over and just do an arms control agreement with the Soviets, but that we have a multidimensional relationship with the Russian government and the Russian people," McFaul said. "As we reset relations with the Russian government, we also want to reset relations with Russian society."
Obama will spend three days in Italy attending the G-8 summit in L'Aquila, outside Rome. The summit meetings will focus on such countries as Iran and North Korea, the global economy, climate change and aid to Africa.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi moved the summit from its original location in Sardinia to L'Aquila, site of the April 6 earthquake that killed nearly 300 people. The prime minister wanted to bring the summit to the region to boost the area's economy and spotlight the continuing challenges from the earthquake.
On Friday, the president and first lady will meet with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican.