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May 25, 2011

Obama, Medvedev Discuss US Missile Defense

by Kent Klein

U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev have agreed to continue working toward an agreement on U.S. missile defense plans, but it is clear that they have more issues to resolve.   The two leaders met Thursday at the Group of Eight summit in Deauville, France.

Despite what is described as a warm personal relationship, President Obama and President Medvedev still have some lingering mistrust over the issue of U.S. missile defense.

The two presidents met as soon as Obama arrived in the French resort town, and differences emerged almost immediately.


The United States plans to put missile interceptors in Eastern and Central Europe in stages through 2020 as part of a proposed missile defense shield for Europe.  Russia is concerned that the missile defense system could pose a risk to Russian strategic nuclear forces in the future.  

Obama's top Russia adviser, Mike McFaul, said the U.S. is not interested in rekindling the arms race.  

"We have no intention of doing that," said McFaul.  "We said that clearly.  In our view, the science also supports that.  We do not have that capability."

But Medvedev, speaking through an interpreter, said Russia and the U.S. may always disagree about some issues.

"It does not mean that we have common views and coinciding views on all the issues," said Medvedev.  "It is impossible, and I believe that it is not worth trying."

Medvedev said the missile defense issue would be solved by future politicians, but that he and Obama could lay the foundation now.

Meanwhile, Obama said he and his Russian counterpart did agree to continue talking about the issue.

"And we committed to working together so that we can find an approach and configuration that is consistent with the security needs of both countries that maintains the strategic balance, and deals with potential threats that we both share," Obama explained.

Another priority for Obama is to work with the other industrialized countries here to provide economic help for Egypt, Tunisia and any Middle Eastern countries that may embrace democracy.

The president also was expected to talk with the other leaders about the NATO miitary operation in Libya, intended to protect civilians from Moammar Gadhafi's troops.

Obama also met with Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan about aiding his country's efforts to recover and rebuild after the recent earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.

Also at the G8, a White House spokesman congratulated the Serbian government on the arrest of longtime war crimes fugitive, former Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic.

President Obama concludes his six-day, four-nation tour of Europe in Poland on Saturday.