U.S. President Barack Obama is preparing for another round of
international travel. He leaves Washington Sunday evening for a Moscow
summit on arms control, followed by the annual Group of Eight Meeting
in Italy, and what is sure to be an emotional trip to Ghana.
Moscow, the president will seek to reset the U.S. relationship with
Russia. Relations eroded in recent years by disputes over Georgia,
NATO enlargement and other issues.
He will meet individually
with both Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir
Putin. Their primary goal: to jumpstart negotiations on a new
agreement to replace the soon-to-expire Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.
Obama says it is important to consult with both men, noting Prime
Minister Putin - the former president - still has a great deal of
In an interview with the Associated Press, President
Obama said President Medvedev seems to understand the old Cold War
approaches to U.S. - Russia relations are outdated. But Mr. Obama said
he cannot say the same for Vladimir Putin.
"Prime Minister Putin
still has a lot of sway in Russia," the president said. "And I think
that it's important that even as we move forward with President
Medvedev, that Putin understands that the old Cold War approaches to
the U.S. - Russia relations are out dated."
Andrew Kuchins is a
Russia and Eurasia expert at the Center for Strategic and International
Studies in Washington. He says President Obama would be well served to
spend as much time as possible with Vladimir Putin.
important part about his trip to Moscow is going to be his discussions
with Vladimir Putin, in my view," Kuchins said, "for the simple reason
that Mr. Putin is by far and away the most important and powerful
figure in Russia. It is pretty simple logic."
Effort to reach out
While the first
day in Moscow and part of the next morning will be devoted to meetings
with Russia's leaders, President Obama also intends to reach out to the
Russian people with a speech and a set of discussions with
representatives of civil society and the political opposition.
McDonough, the White House Deputy National Security Advisor for
Strategic Communications, says the president will deliver two
speeches on this trip - one in Russia and one in Ghana. He says they
are part of a four-speech series that began with an address on arms
proliferation in April, and an outreach to the world's Muslims in June.
will be a speech about U.S. Russia relations and how great powers ought
to see this new century," McDonough explained. "And then, of course,
the speech in Ghana will be an enunciation of democracy and development
goals as it relates not just to Ghana or not just to West Africa and
not just to Africa, but to the whole part of this world that is the
The appearances in Moscow and Accra will be
bookends around another round of important multilateral summitry. This
time it is the Group of Eight Summit hosted by the Italian government
in a town devastated by an earthquake just months ago.
summit will have a broad agenda, and will include participation by
leaders of major economies outside the formal G8 structure, such as
China. Also in attendance will be representatives of several African
White House officials say Ghana is the perfect spot
for a presidential visit after the G8, saying it is a shining example
of good governance on the continent.
"Ghana is a truly admirable
example of a place where governance is getting stronger, a thriving
democracy," said Michelle Gavin, the top White House advisor for Africa.
The trip will end in Ghana on a highly emotional note.
first black president of the United States - the son of a Kenyan father
- will visit an old slave fort called Cape Coast Castle. It is one of
many fortresses along the Ghanaian coast, where countless Africans
spent weeks in cramped dungeons before they were herded through a door
of no return, and shoved onto ships, leaving Africa behind for a life