Post START Signing, Obama’s Dinner for Central and Eastern European Leaders

Apr 8, 2010 4:11pm

From Yunji de Nies and Sunlen Miller:

With Russian President Medvedev long gone, President Obama went from guest to host this evening in Prague, having 11 leaders from Central and Eastern European heads of state and heads of government over to dinner at the ambassador’s residence.

The countries attending the dinner were: Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Lithuania, Slovenia, Poland, the Slovak Republic, Latvia, Estonia, Romania and the Czech Republic.

White House officials were adamant today in rejecting the notion that this dinner was to reassure the Central Europeans that the warming of relations between the US and Russia will not come at their expense.

“We have been clear cut from day one – from April 1st  — that as we advance our interest with Russia in seeking mutual cooperation we’re not going to link that to other places as a quid pro quo,” Michael McFaul, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Russian Affairs, said today, “That is simply not a game that we’re going to play.”

Administration officials said that they believe a more substantive relationship with Russia is good for security in this region of the world. “It’s not a zero sum game. It actually can be beneficial to both,” McFaul said.

The White House said that during the dinner, the president is anticipated to discuss a range of issues including the global economy, European security and Afghanistan.

The dinner tonight is closed press, but the pool was able to shoot the arrivals as the host-in-chief greeted each leader and posed for the obligatory photo. Upon the arrival of Hungarian Prime minister Gordon Bajnai, Mr. Obama joked, “He's younger than me!" and Mr. Bajnai, who is 42, also joked, "On the outside!"

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