Partnership of Moscow and Washington

Text of report by the website of heavyweight Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta on 18 May

[Nezavisimaya Gazeta editorial: "Partnership of Moscow and Washington. Presidents of Both Countries Have Convincing Reasons To Refrain From Trips Abroad During Specified Times."]

In recent times, the status of Russian-American relations has been actively discussed in the world mass media. The announcements made in Moscow and Washington gave reasons for commentary. The Kremlin announced that Russia would not be represented by President Vladimir Putin at the G8 Summit in Camp David, which will be held at the end of this week. Instead, it will be represented by the head of government, Dmitriy Medvedev. After that, the Washington White House announced that US President Barack Obama would not be able to participate in the September APEC Summit in Vladivostok. In certain commentaries, these were presented as unfriendly gestures, and even a sign of cooling in Russian-American relations.

Meanwhile, the presidents of both countries have convincing reasons for refraining from taking trips abroad in the aforementioned times. Vladimir Putin is wrapping up work on forming the government, and, while the APEC Summit is going on, Barack Obama will be participating in the US Democratic Party Congress, which will nominate him for re-election for another term.

It is indicative that both parties have expressed full understanding of the reasons for each other’s decisions. The participation of Dmitriy Medvedev in the G8 Summit instead of Vladimir Putin does not violate any of that forum’s protocol standards. The same is true also of Obama’s non-participation in the Vladivostok meeting.

Some observers emphasize what they believe to be the sudden nature of the adopted decisions. But in fact, as diplomats of both countries emphasize, even during his meeting with Dmitriy Medvedev in March of this year in Seoul, Barack Obama had warned him that he would not be able to visit Russia before the November elections. The commotion over the live microphone at that time distracted the attention of the mass media from this explanation. In the nearest time -more precisely, in June -a meeting of Putin and Obama will nevertheless take place. However, this will be in a third country -on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Mexico (18-19 June).

We may presume that, considering the electoral campaign in the US, there will hardly be any major new bilateral initiatives presented in relations of the two countries, but there can be no discussion of any cooling in relations. Following the major achievements of recent years, among which are primarily the conclusion of the START Treaty, Russian-American relations continue to develop. Furthermore, as authoritative diplomatic sources and international experts note, Russian-American cooperation has notably advanced in recent times. There is a serious and productive dialogue on international problems. Cooperation is deepening in the struggle against global threats, and primarily terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the drug trade.

Specific manifestations of such cooperation are the renewal of negotiations of the "group of six" international mediators with Iran, and the agreement between Moscow and Washington on creation of a transit centre in Ulyanovsk for delivery of cargo to Afghanistan for the international contingent. For the first time in history, joint anti-terrorist exercises of Russian and US airborne forces will take place in the American state of Colorado on 24-31 May. Consultations on the problem of missile defence are also ongoing.

Obviously, not all problems in bilateral relations have yet been solved. This concerns first and foremost the question of the European missile defence system that is being created by the US, which touches upon the interests of Russia’s security. A relic from the era of the Cold War -the Jackson-Vanik Amendment to the US trade legislation – has also still not been repealed. But on the whole, there is obvious progress in relations.

Undoubtedly, even if some new major initiatives in the development of Russian-American relations are improbable at the present time, primarily as a result of the ongoing electoral campaign in the US, Moscow and Washington may perform considerable preparatory work on promoting them in the future. Stagnation in such an important direction of foreign policy is inadmissible.

Source: Nezavisimaya Gazeta website, Moscow, in Russian 18 May 12

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