Putin optimistic over relations with U.S. under Barack Obama

14:34, 04 December 2008
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Moscow had already noted the "positive signals"

Russia`s prime minister said on Thursday he expected relations with the United States to improve after Barack Obama takes office in January, RIA Novosti reported.

"As a rule, certain changes take place when power changes hands in any country, and this is particularly the case for the U.S. as a superpower. We hope these will be positive changes," Vladimir Putin said in a televised question-and-answer session.

He said Moscow had already noted the "positive signals" coming from Obama`s transition team, and pointed to progress on the two key disputes in Russia-U.S. relations - Washington`s plans for a missile shield in Central Europe, and NATO`s expansion plans.

"The meeting of NATO foreign ministers was notable. Both Ukraine and Georgia have been denied the NATO Membership Action Plan. At the level of experts, we have heard people very close to the U.S. president-elect say there is no need to hurry, and ruin relations with Russia," Putin said.

NATO foreign ministers decided on Tuesday in Brussels to delay Ukraine and Georgia`s admission to the Membership Action Plan, a key step for entry into the military alliance. NATO`s eastward expansion since the break-up of the Soviet Union has been a major source of Russian concern.

On the controversial U.S. plans to deploy a missile shield in Central Europe, Putin said: "We are already hearing that the need to deploy a missile defense system in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic needs to be reviewed."

The Bush administration has claimed the planned 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and radar in the Czech Republic are necessary to counter possible strikes from "rogue" states like Iran, while Russia says the bases would upset the strategic balance of forces in Europe and threaten national security.

After Obama`s presidential election victory, one of his foreign policy advisers said the president-elect was not committed to the missile shield, and would only continue with the project if its effectiveness was proven.

Putin said officials in the U.S. have indicated that Russia`s interests will be given more consideration in building bilateral relations.

"If these are not empty words, and if they are transformed into practical policy, our reaction will certainly be appropriate, and our American partners will immediately feel this," Putin said.

RIA Novosti
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