Putin hopes for better ties with US under Obama

17:31, 25 November 2008
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Putin said that Russia...

Russia`s leaders said Monday they hope the United States will scrap its missile defense system in Europe and be more willing to negotiate a nuclear arms control deal once U.S. President-elect Barack Obama takes office, according to AP.

The comments by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his successor as president, Dmitry Medvedev, appeared to be the strongest signal yet that the Kremlin would like to step back from confrontation with the United States.

Putin said that Russia so far has failed to negotiate an extension or replacement of the 1991 START arms reduction treaty in talks with U.S. officials, but added that a deal could be struck with Obama`s administration.

The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expires at the end of next year, significantly cut U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals.

"We hope that the new U.S. leadership will be more constructive, responsible and — this is quite important — farsighted," compared to their predecessors, Putin said in a speech at a lawyers` conference Monday, which was carried by Russian news agencies.

Medvedev said he hopes Obama`s administration will scrap plans for missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic that have badly strained ties between Moscow and Washington under U.S. President George W. Bush.

"There is a chance for that," Medvedev said on a trip to Peru for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, in comments broadcast Monday. "While the position of the current administration on the issue is extremely rigid ... the position of the president-elect looks more careful."

Putin and Medvedev both reaffirmed that Russia will scrap its plan to deploy short-range Iskander missiles in its westernmost Kaliningrad region, if the United States cancels its plans to deploy 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a related radar in the Czech Republic.

Medvedev threatened to deploy missiles in Kaliningrad in a speech a day after Obama`s election.

"If the new U.S. administration refrains from intention to set up missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic, there will be no need for our retaliatory measures," Putin said Monday in televised remarks. "In that case, it will be possible to overcome the current negative trends on the European continent."

Russia has seen the U.S. plans as a threat to its nuclear forces, dismissing Washington`s assertions that the missile defense sites are intended to counter a potential Iranian missile threat.

Medvedev said that a conversation between Obama and Polish President Lech Kaczynski earlier this month had shown that the new U.S. administration is still weighing what action to take on the issue.

Kaczynski first claimed that Obama had promised Poland he would continue the Bush administration`s missile defense program, but then backtracked on his statement after an aide to Obama denied Kaczynski`s original claim.

"It shows that our American partners, our future partners, are thinking about it and don`t have a once-and-for all stereotype for dealing with this problem," Medvedev said. "If so, a dialogue is possible, a change in position and, ultimately, a reversal is possible. We shall live and see."

Obama has not been explicit about his intentions, saying it would be prudent to "explore the possibility" but expressing some skepticism about the technical capability of U.S. missile defenses.

Medvedev said he would like to build "constructive, partnerlike relations" with Obama`s administration. "The conversation I had with the president-elect allows me to expect a similar U.S. approach," he added, referring to a telephone conversation he had with Obama earlier this month.

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