(AFP) – Apr 2, 2009
LONDON (AFP) — Russia's Dmitry Medvedev hailed Barack Obama as "my new comrade" Thursday after their first face-to-face talks, saying the US president "can listen" -- even if little progress was made on substance.
The Russian president contrasted Obama as "totally different" to his predecessor George W. Bush, whom he blamed for the "mistake" of US missile shield plans fiercely opposed by Moscow.
Obama agreed to visit Moscow in July after his talks with Medvedev on Wednesday on the sidelines of a G20 summit in London aimed at fixing the battered world economy.
"I believe that we managed to establish contact. But Moscow lies ahead. I cannot say that we made much progress on the most serious issues," he told reporters, adding: "Let's wait and see."
"I liked the talks. It is easy to talk to him. He can listen. The start of this relationship is good," he said, adding: "Today it's a totally different situation (compared to Bush)... This suits me quite well."
In their London talks, Obama and Medvedev launched a milestone quest to slash their nuclear arsenals, hoping to reverse the worst slump in the former foes' ties since the end of the Cold War.
The pair also discussed thorny issues including NATO's eastwards expansion, long opposed by Moscow which sees it as a power-grab by the West's former Cold War-era military bloc into former Soviet territory.
"Yesterday I spoke about this with my new comrade President Barack Obama," Medvedev told reporters travelling with him to the London summit.
They also discussed US plans for a missile defence shield, based in former communist-bloc countries which are now members of NATO and the European Union, like the Czech Republic.
Again, Medvedev was complimentary.
"Today from the United States there is at least a desire to listen to our arguments," he said, adding that: "Such defence measures should be carried out jointly" between Washington and Moscow.
The missile defence plan was "a mistake that the previous US administration is responsible for. Many of my European colleagues also believe this," the Russian leader added, without specifying who.
Obama, speaking on Wednesday, admitted US-Russian ties had cooled, saying: "What we've seen over the last several years is drift in the US-Russian relationship.
"There are very real differences between the United States and Russia, and I have no interest in papering those over. But there are also a broad set of common interests that we can pursue," he said.
One area of difference is Georgia -- Russia sent troops and tanks deep into the ex-Soviet republic last August in response to a Georgian military attempt to retake the breakaway region of South Ossetia.
Medvedev made clear later Thursday that Moscow's views have not changed -- in particular about Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili -- however he feels about Obama.
"Everything that has happened, I will tell you frankly, that the leader of Georgia is responsible for everything. That is my direct and honest and open opinion.
"A lot of people had to pay for the mistakes of one man. We love and appreciate the Georgian people. But I do not want to have any relations with President Saakashvili."
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