President Obama said Thursday that the U.S.-Russian relationship has to be about more than security and arms control, as he and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev talked about how they can expand economic ties as well.
The two leaders showed off their personal rapport, eating at a popular burger joint in Arlington, Va., sharing some fries and advice on how to avoiding staining their ties.
The White House says lunch was Obama’s treat; Obama said he was trying to return the favor for Medvedev’s hospitality when the first family visited Moscow last year.
“Our daughters will never forget having tea in the Winter Garden of the Kremlin,” Obama said. “And, Mr. President, I hope you’ll remember having a burger at Ray’s Hell’s Burger today.”
Areas Of Cooperation
Obama says there have been concrete results from the improving ties between the White House and the Kremlin. He cited a new strategic arms-control agreement, a new Iran sanctions resolution that passed in the U.N. Security Council with Russia’s help, and the opening of Russian transit routes for military supplies heading to Afghanistan.
But some analysts say there is less than meets the eye – and Obama acknowledges that there are lingering sore points, particularly over conflicts in the former Soviet Union.
“Our two countries continue to disagree on certain issues, such as Georgia, and we addressed those differences candidly,” he said. “But by moving forward in areas where we do agree, we have succeeded in resetting our relationship, which benefits regional and global security.”
Medvedev says the U.S. and Russia have taken steps together to make the world safer, but haven’t done enough yet to improve economic ties. That, he said, was a key focus of his trip.
“We will talk of future steps so that the level of economic investment cooperation is in line with the potential of the U.S. and Russian economies,” he said through an interpreter.
Obama says the two countries have put behind them a dispute over U.S. poultry exports, and he recommitted himself to helping Russia join the World Trade Organization. Russia has long sought membership, but U.S. support in the past has come with conditions.
“Russia belongs in the WTO,” Obama said. “That’s good for Russia. It’s good for America, and it’s good for the world economy.”
Medvedev said he hopes negotiations on Russia’s WTO accession will wrap up by the fall. He’s also been touting his plan to create a high-tech area outside Moscow, and says he got some inspiration when he visited Silicon Valley in California on Wednesday.
The Russian leader got a financial boost as well from Cisco CEO John Chambers, whose company announced a $1 billion investment to promote high-tech innovation in Russia over the next decade.
“Simply put, we are all in,” Chambers said.
Medvedev says he’s going to need investors and help to pull off his high-tech project, but he’s also facing questions on his trip about what he’ll do more generally to help the business climate in Russia – where corruption is rampant and there’s little in the way of rule of law.