Mon, Nov 17, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Russian president calls for talks with Obama


The Dmitry Medvedev who made his first appearance in the US capital as Russian president was not the same man Russians usually see at home.

He was confident, even charming, in reaching out on Saturday in a spirit of cooperation to the incoming administration of US president-elect Barack Obama.

He showed none of the bluster and tough talk that he has adopted in recent months in an awkward imitation of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, his predecessor and mentor.

Putin’s choice of Medvedev to succeed him earlier this year was seen as an effort to rebrand Russia, to improve its relations with the West and Western investors.

But the August war with Georgia, a former Soviet republic that has allied itself with Washington, led to a change in course.

Medvedev quickly began to sound like Putin in casting the West as the aggressor.

The Nov. 4 election of Obama seemed to offer an opportunity for Russia and the US to make a fresh start. But instead of welcoming Obama’s election, Medvedev issued a challenge.

In a Nov. 5 speech, he warned that Russia would move short-range missiles to NATO’s borders to “neutralize” a planned US missile defense system in Eastern Europe if necessary.

Medvedev has since backed off slightly. He said on Saturday that Russia would not act unless the US took the first step and expressed hope that the new US administration would be open to negotiations.

He said there was a lack of trust between Russia and the US, but it is “in our power” to create a partnership.

He called for talks with Obama as soon as possible after he becomes president Jan. 20 and suggested that missile defense would be a good place to start.

“I hope that the new president, the new administration will have a desire to discuss this,” Medvedev told members of the Council on Foreign Relations.

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