The President went to Russia as the first stop in his trip this week, continuing to work towards a "reset" of relations towards a more constructive path. This morning he joined President Dmitry A. Medvedev for a joint press conference
, and summed up the meeting they had just held:
We've just concluded a very productive meeting. As President Medvedev just indicated, the President and I agreed that the relationship between Russia and the United States has suffered from a sense of drift. We resolved to reset U.S.-Russian relations, so that we can cooperate more effectively in areas of common interest. Today, after less than six months of collaboration, we've done exactly that by taking concrete steps forward on a range of issues, while paving the way for more progress in the future. And I think it's particularly notable that we've addressed the top priorities -- these are not second-tier issues, they are fundamental to the security and the prosperity of both countries.
(President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sign documents on nuclear arms reduction before their news conference at the Kremlin in Moscow Monday, July 6, 2009. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
Question: "Restarting" the relationship implies cooperating with Russia in those areas where it is possible. Does this mean weaker attention to Russia’s observation of civil rights and liberties, and to persecution against and murders of journalists? Specifically, to [the need to] apprehend and punish those who ordered and committed the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Of course not. I seek to reset relations with Russia because I believe that Americans and Russians have many common interests, interests that our governments recently have not pursued as actively as we could have. For instance, I believe that Americans and Russians both would benefit from fewer nuclear weapons in the world, greater control over nuclear materials around the world, a defeat of extremist elements in Afghanistan and Pakistan, an Iran that produces nuclear energy but not nuclear weapons, and a North Korea that refrains from launching missiles and exploding nuclear weapons and instead returns to the negotiating table. I also believe that Americans and Russians have a common interest in the development of rule of rule, the strengthening of democracy, and the protection of human rights. As I said in my inaugural address: "To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist." I then emphasized in my Cairo speech that "I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. These are not just American ideas; they are human rights." These are ideas embraced by your president and your people. I agree with President Medvedev when he said that "Freedom is better than the absence of freedom." So, I see no reason why we cannot aspire together to strengthen democracy, human rights, and the rule of law as part of our "reset."
(A view of Red Square from the Kempinski Hotel, July 5, 2009. President Barack Obama arrives in Moscow on July 6th, his first visit to Russia since taking office. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
(President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, along with their daughters Malia and Sasha, are greeted by President Medvedev and Mrs. Medvedev at the Kremlin in Moscow Monday, July 6, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
(President Barack Obama meets with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in the Kremlin in Moscow, Monday, July 6, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.)