Obama and Medvedev: Agreement and Disagreement

By MichaelJames

Apr 1, 2009 7:50pm

"It is important to note that there are many points on which we can work," Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said today at his joint event with President Obama, according to a translation from the White House. "And indeed there are far more points…where we can come closer, where we can work, rather than those points on which we have differences."

"There are very real differences between the United States and Russia and I have no interest in papering those over," President Obama said at a press conference with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown President

And what were those moments of disagreement between President Obama and President Medvedev?

Senior administration officials say the starkest moment came when President Obama expressed opposition to Russia’s war with neighboring Georgia, and Russian support for the break-away Georgian republics.

"We have very serious concerns about the Russian-Georgian war," the president directly told Medvedev, according to a senior official. "And we are not going to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia."

Medvedev made a defense of his case, officials said.

President Obama also expressed opposition to the Russian notion of "spheres of influence" — the concept of other countries being dominated politically and culturally by Russia.

"I don’t think ‘spheres of influence’ in the 21st century is a useful concept," the president said, according to senior officials.

The third issue of disagreement came regarding the U.S. building a missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland, which Russia adamantly opposes. President Obama reiterated that "shield" is being set up not as a defense against Russia, but against Iran, so if that country’s nuclear threat goes away so might the missile defense shield.

The two presidents agreed that Iran’s nuclear weapons program is a shared threat, so there seemed an opening for some common ground, if not agreement, in that area.

Earlier in the day, President Obama focused on the "set of common interests" the U.S. and Russia share.

The president listed those interests as ranging "from Afghanistan to Iran," including "reducing nuclear stockpiles … reducing the threat of terrorism … stabilizing the world economy … and finding a sustainable path for energy and dealing with some of the threats of climate change. … I think there’s great potential for concerted action and that’s what I think we’ll be pursuing."

"A good place to start will be the issue of nuclear proliferation," the president said.

The current nuclear arms START — or the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty — ends Dec. 5, 2009. It was signed in March 1991 and removed more than 75 percent of the strategic nuclear weapons in both countries’ arsenals.

More than 3,000 police are battling protesters as numerous groups have planned demonstrations on a wide variety of grievances. Protesters have smashed windows and entered the Bank of Scotland and tried to storm the Bank of England.

(You can read more on the president’s day HERE.)

- jpt

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