Obama Visits Moscow

As usual, the Economist provides an excellent cover-story editorial (Welcome to Moscow) discussing President Obama’s tricky task ahead as he pays a visit to Moscow prior to his attendance, starting next Wednesday, at the G8 summit in L’Aquila, Italy. One conclusion their writer draws is that nuclear arms control is probably the area where he can expect the most success (or even the only tangible success) out of that visit.

A report out of the Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende (Hope for atomic agreement between USA and Russia, sourced to the Ritzau news-agency) largely confirms that assessment and adds further detail. For one thing, this will actually be the second time Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev will discuss the subject. When they first met in London, at that G20 summit of early last April, they agreed to begin negotiations during this upcoming visit on strategic nuclear arms – which may have been somewhat of a no-brainer, as the current START-1 treaty that regulates the US-Russia strategic nuclear balance expires on 5 December of this year. In any case, it’s not like things have been quiet on this front (unfortunately); there is still that plan by the US to set up an anti-missile system in Central Europe, ostensibly aimed against Iran, with the control radar in the Czech Republic and the actual missiles in Poland, a topic which Medvedev is guaranteed to bring up into the conversations. Plus, the Russian president’s initial idea for greeting Obama’s election last November was to announce his intention to station short-range, nuclear-tipped “Iskander” missiles to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad as a counter-move to that anti-missle system, although he has not followed through yet with the actual deployment.

But there’s another problem that the Economist article did not bring up, and that is NATO’s current difficulties with its supply line to Afghanistan. Routing provisions through Pakistan via the Khyber Pass has been a risky proposition for some time, and a few months ago it also looked like the US would be losing access to a key airbase in Kyrgyzstan, although recently the two governments signed an agreement to open it up again for American military use. Still, it would be handy also to be able to use Russian facilities – as well as Russia’s considerable influence on the Kyrgyz government – so that cooperation here would be very welcome. The BT article says American officials likewise have hopes of being able to settle this during the upcoming Russo-American summit.

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