November 16 2008
Dmitry Medvedev has said the election of Barack Obama provides an opportunity for a renewal of trust between Moscow and Washington. Relations between the two sides have soured since the U.S. announced plans to build an anti-missile defence shield in Europe.
Speaking in the U.S. capital, the Russian President said “we have great hope and aspirations for the new administration.”
Medvedev has been doing the diplomatic rounds in the past week, from the EU summit in Nice to the G20 in Washington. A top issue for discussion has been the proposed U.S. anti-missile defence shield in Europe.
Speaking at Saturday’s G20 summit in Washington, The Russian president explained that Russia will place short-range missiles in its westernmost Kaliningrad region only if the planned U.S. bases are built in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Relations between the two sides were on the agenda before the Russian president managed to take off from Moscow.
The day after the U.S. election Medvedev gave a speech to the parliament’s upper chamber, announcing a plan to counter the US missile defence system in Europe with Iskander missiles deployed in Kaliningrad.
The address caused much alarm and criticism in the West, and ahead of the EU meeting Medvedev had to explain once again what he meant.
“I would not in any way link my speech on November 5 to any other political events, apart from my address to the Russian Federal Assembly. In other words, it is not in any way linked to the U.S. presidential election, or any other political events,” Medvedev told the French newspaper Le Figaro.
“I think it’s an absolutely adequate response. We did not start this. It is only a response to the unilateral move to deploy the US radars and missiles”.
French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who heads the EU at the moment, did not want to be held up by U.S-Russia sticking points. Sarkozy and preferred to focus on progress as well – like the EU’s work as a peace broker following last summer’s crisis in the Caucasus.
The U.S. couldn’t be avoided altogether. Russian and French leaders and the European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso were expected for dinner at the White House shortly after the Russia-EU summit wrapped up with plans for future security meetings.
The G20 meant all eyes were on the economy. They couldn’t help but wander in the direction of the man who will inherit an enormous task in January, even though he was far from Washington this weekend. Moscow anticipates that U.S. President-elect Barack Obama might better understand Russia’s concern about NATO expansion and missile defence in Europe.
“I hope we’ll be able to build normal partnership relations with the new administration and find solutions to some difficult issues which we could not find with the current administration,” Medvedev said.