President Barack Obama will use Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Washington today to advance plans for Russia’s entry into the World Trade Organization as the countries seek broader ties, aides said.
Medvedev’s trade-focused U.S. trip comes after months of engagement on security issues. The U.S. and Russia agreed in March to cuts in their nuclear arsenals and hammered out United Nations economic sanctions this month aimed at pressuring Iran to scale back its nuclear development work.
“Both presidents feel strongly that there’s great potential in the U.S.-Russia relationship that extends beyond some of these flashpoint issues,” said Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications.
Medvedev seeks to modernize the world’s largest energy producer to lessen its dependence on oil, gas and metals, while the U.S. wants to build a relationship that can withstand strains over security disputes.
“The more integrated Russia is into the world economy and connected with the American economy, we think that serves the national interest,” said Michael McFaul, senior director of Russian affairs on the National Security Council. He said economic relations would help the two countries work through “crisis moments” in the future.
Medvedev’s three-day visit to the U.S. started in the San Francisco area, where he toured Silicon Valley companies such as Cisco Systems Inc. in San Jose, California, and Apple Inc. in Cupertino, as part of his efforts to create a technology hub near Moscow.
Rhodes said Medvedev’s California stop, which included a meeting with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, set the business-oriented tone the U.S. wants to emphasize during this visit.
The Obama administration will make Russia’s long-standing bid to join the WTO a priority on the agenda of the meeting, McFaul said. Medvedev’s aides have said he will seek a “definitive” answer from Obama about whether the U.S. will support WTO entry.
The presidents will “put a game plan together,” McFaul said in an interview.
U.S. trade in goods with Russia through the first four months of this year rose 27.4 percent compared with the year-earlier period, to $8.48 billion, according to the Commerce Department.
The effort to deepen U.S. investment may run up against a legal climate in Russia that doesn’t offer companies consistent protection, said Matthew Rojansky of the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Rule of Law
McFaul told reporters that Medvedev “understands” the challenge and has been outspoken about the need to strengthen Russia’s rule of law. The U.S. will announce a new initiative on open government with Russia during his visit, McFaul said.
“Russia is striving to become an open country, ready for partnership with everyone who is ready for joint work,” Medvedev said yesterday in a speech at Stanford University.
Today’s meeting will be the seventh between Obama, 48, and Medvedev, 44, who have an “exceptionally strong” relationship, Rhodes said. The presidents, both trained as lawyers, spent up to 90 minutes on the phone together during negotiations on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty for nuclear warheads, according to McFaul.
After their White House encounter today, which includes a discussion of international security issues, Obama and Medvedev will attend an event for Russian and U.S. business leaders.
The U.S. signaled solidarity with Russia yesterday, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton designated Chechen insurgent leader Doku Umarov for anti-terrorism sanctions aimed at stemming the flow of money to him, the State Department said.
Umarov claimed responsibility for dual suicide bombings in Moscow subway stations in March that killed 40 people.