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Russia Expects Early Meeting With Obama in 2009


The United States and Russia have a testy relationship over a number of issues, including NATO expansion, the U.S. proposal to deploy a missile-defense system in central Europe, and the Russian attack on Georgia earlier this year.

Russia eager for early meeting with president-elect

Russia has taken a defiant stance toward Washington, but also appears eager for an early meeting with President-elect Barack Obama.

The day after Barack Obama's historic election, and as much of the world celebrated, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev struck a different chord. In a major address, Mr. Medvedev not only failed to acknowledge Mr. Obama's victory, but also threatened to deploy short-range conventional missiles in Kaliningrad, near Poland and Lithuania, to counter a proposed U.S. missile-defense system in Central Europe. Washington insists that system is geared against Iran, not Russia.

Moscow holds war games with Venezuela

Russia has also sent navy ships to the Americas - for joint maneuvers with Venezuela, a visit to Cuba, and for passage of a warship through the Panama Canal.

Despite these seemingly defiant moves against Washington, President Medvedev appears eager to meet his new American counterpart.

According to Mr. Medvedev, the most important thing is that a meeting with Mr. Obama takes place as soon as possible. He said Russia has the same understanding as the American president-elect, that it take place without delay and without pre-conditions.

Obama taking over during difficult times

Mr. Obama assumes office at a time when the United States is engaged in two wars and is suffering the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Independent Russian political analyst Alexander Konovalov said Russia, therefore, is not likely to be a top U.S. priority.

Konovalov said Mr. Obama's priorities will look like this: the economy, the economy, and again the economy; Iraq, Iraq, and Iraq yet again; Afghanistan, Afghanistan and once again Afghanistan. Only then, said Konovalov, will the new president have time to think and do something about Russia.

Obama will seek cooperation with Russia

Mr. Obama said in early December that his administration will seek to cooperate with Moscow where possible, citing nuclear non-proliferation and joint efforts against terrorism. But Mr. Obama added that America should also send a clear message that Russia must not bully Georgia and other neighbors.

Yet Viktor Kremenyuk, deputy director of the USA-Canada Institute in Moscow, said Russia and the United States can cooperate on many important issues despite their differences.

Kremenyuk said these issues include not only financial problems, and not only proliferation of nuclear weapons, but also climate change, energy security and numerous other complicated matters that Russian and the United States need to address together.

Russia calls for new international order

Russian leaders have been calling for the establishment of a new international order to replace what they say is a uni-polar world in which the United States is dominant. Nonetheless, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev said the current global financial crisis shows that the international community still needs the United States.

"America is needed - [an] America that is strong, democratic and sure of itself - for the entire world, not just for the Americans," Mr. Gorbatchev said.

The former Soviet leader said the world now sees that "if it is bad for America, it is bad for all."

President-elect Obama has not spoken in detail about his Russia policy, saying the United States has only one president at a time. And while Kremlin leaders did not take part in the widespread international celebration of Mr. Obama's historic victory, they do expect to be among the first to meet with him after his inauguration.