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|U.S. President Barack Obama will press
Russia to drop its “zero-sum” attitude on alternative energy
supplies out of the former Soviet Union and offer cooperation in
preventing climate change through better energy technology during a
visit to Moscow next week, U.S. officials said.
The White House also revealed a packed schedule for Obama’s visit,
including a meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and the
publication of an interview with Novaya Gazeta.
President Dmitry Medvedev posted a new entry on his video blog
Thursday, saying Russia was ready for a fresh start with Obama.
Energy will be a major topic for Obama’s talks with Medvedev and
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, said Michael McFaul, Obama’s special
assistant and senior director for Russian and Eurasian affairs.
“We’re going in there to talk about how we want to do things in
cooperation with Russia,” McFaul said in a conference call with
reporters late Wednesday, Moscow time. “In particular, we want to
have conversations about diversification of supplies out of Russia
and through the region in a way that it’s not thought about in a
The statement appears to refer to a policy by state-controlled
Gazprom to buy as much gas as possible from Russia’s gas-producing
neighbors, such as Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan, to ensure that it
remains the dominant supplier of the fuel to Europe. In the most
recent deal, Gazprom earlier this week secured modest supplies from
Azerbaijan starting from next year and said it was considering
The Russian and U.S. leaders will also discuss “Russia’s role in
terms of becoming a more energy-efficient country as we look to do
things on climate change,” McFaul said, according to a transcript of
Obama will deliver the message that Washington and Moscow can do
well if they join forces on such energy issues, McFaul said.
“It’s not, in our view, a zero-sum game, that if it’s two points for
Russia it’s negative two for us, but there are ways that we can
cooperate to advance our interests and at the same time do things
with the Russians that are good for them as well,” he said.
A call to Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, went unanswered Thursday
afternoon. A Kremlin spokesman requested that questions be submitted
by fax and did not respond by late Thursday.
A frank exchange of opinions on energy policy could be useful if
Obama succeeds in convincing Moscow that the United States isn’t
seeking to undermine Russia’s interests, said Pavel Baev, a
professor at the International Research Institute in Oslo, Norway.
“Moscow harbors suspicions that it’s the U.S. that pushes the
zero-sum game,” he said.
The energy efficiency topic will come up again later next week when
Obama and Medvedev attend the Major Economies Forum in Italy as part
of a Group of Eight summit. Russia, the United States and other
countries will discuss technological innovation to address the
climate change challenge, said Michael Froman, deputy national
security adviser for international economic affairs, who also spoke
during the conference call.
Russia is one of the least successful major economies in cutting
harmful emissions from burning such fuels as oil and coal, according
to a study released Wednesday. Russia made little progress to reach
its targets for greenhouse gas reductions under the Kyoto Protocol,
according to the report commissioned by German insurer Allianz.
International negotiations on how to slow global warming will
culminate in Copenhagen in December in an attempt to compose a
treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.
Medvedev signaled his eagerness to meet with Obama in his latest
video blog, posted on the Kremlin web site.
“The new administration headed by President Obama now demonstrates a
readiness to change the situation and build a more effective, more
reliable and finally more modern relationship. And we are ready for
this,” Medvedev said.
He acknowledged the tense relations between the countries, saying
they “slipped practically to the level of a Cold War,” and called
for “opening a new page in Russian-American cooperation.”
Obama will have a private and working meeting with Medvedev on
Monday, the first day of his visit, said Denis McDonough, deputy
national security adviser for strategic communications. Obama and
his wife, Michelle, will have dinner with the Medvedevs that
On Tuesday, Obama will have breakfast with Putin to let him know
that “the old Cold War approaches” to relations with the United
States are “outdated,” Obama said in an interview Thursday with The
Putin still has “one foot in the old ways of doing business and one
foot in the new,” Obama said.
Putin said earlier that protocol didn’t require Obama to meet with
him but that he would be “pleased” to have an audience with him.
The breakfast will last 60 minutes to 90 minutes, Putin’s spokesman
Peskov told Ekho Moskvy radio.
“The prime minister will have an opportunity to meet this U.S.
president for the first time. Most probably, one can assume, the
U.S. president will also be interested in getting acquainted with
Putin,” Peskov said.
At 10 a.m. Tuesday, Obama is scheduled to give a commencement speech
at the New Economic School — a speech that his advisers are billing
as his third major foreign policy address since assuming office. The
first two were in Prague and Cairo.
After the ceremony, Obama will “hold meetings with a variety of
Russian political, business leaders,” McDonough said. Those meetings
are to include a conference organized by the Russian Union of
Industrialists and Entrepreneurs and the American Chamber of
McFaul said Obama also would meet with “nongovernmental
organizations, media representatives and in other words, all of
those that are dealing with issues of democracy, independent media,
rule of law.”
McFaul said the two presidents would discuss a broad variety of
issues. He stressed that Medvedev should not expect any concessions
on the most painful topics for Moscow — U.S. missile defense plans
in Central Europe and the entry of former Soviet republics into
“We’re not going to reassure or give or trade anything with the
Russians regarding NATO expansion or missile defense,” he said.
“We’re going to define our national interests, and by that I also
mean the interests of our allies in Europe with reference to these
two particular questions.
“So we don’t need the Russians, we don’t want to trade with them,”
He added that the NATO doors remain open for any aspiring member
qualifying for entry and that this applies to Georgia and Ukraine.
As for missile defense, McFaul said Washington would welcome
Moscow’s cooperation on reducing the threat from Iran but would not
abandon its idea of the missile shield in Europe simply in order to
reach a broader deal with Russia.
Russian officials oppose the U.S. plan to build a missile shield in
Europe, saying it will undercut Russia’s potential for a retaliation
strike in the case of nuclear attack.
Obama will also meet with Gorbachev on Tuesday.
Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov also has been invited to meet
Obama, his press secretary Alexander Yushchenko said Thursday. “We
have an invitation to meet President Obama, but the time of the
meeting is still being confirmed.”
Opposition leader Garry Kasparov and Leonid Gozman, head of the new
Kremlin-backed, pro-business political party Right Cause, said they
also have been invited to meet with Obama, Interfax reported.
McFaul said Obama would give an interview to Novaya Gazeta before he
arrives, following the lead of Medvedev, who met with the
newspaper’s editor in April.
The interview “should be on newsstands by the time we get to
Moscow,” McFaul said.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won’t be accompanying Obama to
Moscow because of an arm injury she suffered last month, RIA-Novosti
reported, citing a Foreign Ministry source. She will be replaced by
William Burns, undersecretary for political affairs and the former
U.S. ambassador to Russia.
The Obamas will leave Moscow on Wednesday morning.