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Ahead Of Visit, Obama Calls On Russia To Break From The Past


U.S. President Barack Obama said Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has "one foot in the old ways of doing business and one foot in the new."

U.S. President Barack Obama said Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has "one foot in the old ways of doing business and one foot in the new."

Ahead of an upcoming summit, U.S. President Barack Obama says Russia must understand that it's time to end what he called "old Cold War approaches" to relations with the United States.

In an interview with The Associated Press news agency, Obama says he plans to convey this message during his visit to Moscow starting July 6. Obama will hold talks with both Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Obama said he had developed “a very good relationship" with Medvedev, who succeeded Putin last year.

But Obama said he believes Putin has "one foot in the old ways of doing business and one foot in the new," but that the prime minister "still has a lot of sway" in Russia.

Obama said it's "time to move forward in a different direction" and said he believes that Medvedev "understands that.”

Medvedev has expressed optimism about the summit, saying he is hopeful of finding new ways to cooperate with the United States.

Putin's spokesman reacted to Obama’s assessment, saying it "has nothing to do with a true understanding” of the Russian prime minister. Dmitry Peskov told The AP that he is "convinced" that Obama's opinion will change after they hold talks in Moscow.

'We Are Ready For This'

In a video on his website, Medvedev said Obama’s administration had demonstrated a willingness to improve relations and that the Kremlin is ready to play its part.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
"The new U.S. administration headed by President Obama is now demonstrating readiness to change the situation, and build more effective, reliable and ultimately more modern relations," Medvedev said. "And we are ready for this."

The Russian president insisted that the two nations are "united by the values of our civilization, the values of respect for human life and human rights and freedoms."

Both sides have pledged to "reset" relations, which reached post-Cold War lows following the five-day between Russia and Georgia in August 2008.

Reducing both countries' nuclear weapons will be high on the agenda during Obama's visit. He told The AP that he is looking for progress on this issue.

'Realistic And Reachable'

In Moscow, Mikhail Margelov, chairman of the Federation Council's Committee on Foreign Affairs, told Reuters that both sides are ready to reduce the stocks of deployed nuclear warheads.

"We are ready to move forward. We understand pretty well that total disarmament is nonsense today -- it would be the greatest possible gift for other current and potential members of the nuclear club," Margelov said. "But I think the level of 1,500 warheads is realistic and reachable."

The current strategic arms treaty, START I, expires in December. Senior Russian and U.S. officials held talks in May on a successor treaty.

In 2002, Moscow and Washington concluded an additional agreement envisioning cuts to 1,700 to 2,200 deployed nuclear warheads by 2012.

Meanwhile, a Kremlin aide says Russia will allow the United States to ship weapons across its territory by both land and air to Afghanistan. Medvedev's foreign policy adviser Sergei Prikhodko says Medvedev and Obama are expected to sign a deal on the issue during the summit.

Russia has so far been allowing the United States to only ship nonlethal goods across its territory to help operations in Afghanistan.

Possible Torpedoes

But analyst Masha Lipman of the Moscow Carnegie Center think tank warns that any prospective deals could yet be torpedoed by a number of differences between Moscow and Washington.

"Russia has negative priorities, so-called red lines, such as NATO enlargement that might include Georgia or Ukraine," Lipman says. "Russia would absolutely not want this to happen -- or American plans to deploy elements of its antimissile defense system in Central Europe."

The two sides are at odds on U.S. plans to station parts of a missile-defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, something Russia says threatens its security.

Obama said he does not regard Russia as an obstacle in dealing with North Korea and Iran. The United States is trying to prevent both nations from possessing nuclear arms, and Obama said there had been "good cooperation" from Russia in this regard.

Obama said a nuclear-armed Iran might trigger an arms race in the Middle East, warning that such a scenario would be a "recipe for potential disaster."

with material from the Reuters news agency

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