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“Significant differences” remain between Obama and Medvedev

By Temuri Kiguradze
Friday, April 3
Russia and the United States still have different views on the August war in Georgia, stated the leaders of the two countries in a joint statement published after their meeting in London on April 1.

The meeting produced two statements. The first covered general issues of cooperation between the US and Russia on such issues as the protection of security in Europe and the participation of both sides in anti-terrorist operations. It said in relation to the postwar situation in Georgia, “We have begun a dialogue on security and stability in Europe. Although we disagree about the causes and sequence of the military actions of last August, we agreed that we must continue efforts toward a peaceful and lasting solution to the unstable situation today,” said the Presidents. Referring to the August 2008 conflict, Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev noted that “Bearing in mind that significant differences remain between us, we nonetheless stress the importance of last year’s six-point [ceasefire] accord of August 12, the September 8 agreement, and other relevant agreements, and pursuing effective cooperation in the Geneva discussions to bring stability to the region.”

The second statement concerned the initial implementation of the new agreement on strategic arms reduction. “The subject of the new agreement will be the reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms; in the future agreement the Parties will seek to record levels of reductions in strategic offensive arms that will be lower than those in the 2002 Moscow Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions, which is currently in effect; The new agreement will mutually enhance the security of the Parties and predictability and stability in strategic offensive forces, and will include effective verification measures,” says the statement.

Georgia has already made its first comment on the meeting of Obama and Medvedev, with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili hailing the statements of the US and Russian Presidents. “I am very satisfied that one of the major issues which Obama and Medvedev seriously disagreed on yesterday [on April 1], and which is at the top of their list of priorities, is Georgia and the occupation of Georgia,” Saakashvili told local journalists on April 2. “After this [Obama-Medvedev] meeting I practically rule out another Russian military aggression against Georgia. On the other hand, of course Georgia will not be happy until the de-occupation of Georgia is achieved and the last occupying soldier leaves the territory of Georgia,” added the President.

According to Georgian Minister of Foreign Affairs Grigol Vashadze, the London meeting has demonstrated the depth of the strategic partnership between Georgia and the USA. “Of course Georgia welcomes a situation in which several important truths are repeated as often as possible: that it [Russia] started the war and is trying to seize the sovereign territory of Georgia and that Russia has failed to meet its commitments under the six-point accord, and it is very important that the United States has stated that once again,” said Vashadze.

Independent Georgian political analysts are not so optimistic about the results of the meeting. “Despite the fact that the US and Russia have agreed to begin real cooperation the future of the American anti-missile systems in Europe and the perspective of differences in the position of the sides concerning the August events [in Georgia] are still not clear,” stated Soso Tsiskarishvili. Ramaz Sakvarelidze considers that the difference in position of the Presidents demonstrates that Obama is devoted to the foreign policy his administration has established. “This means that the US wants normal relations with Russia but is not going to back down on issues of principle,” he says. Sakvarelidze also adds that the US Government’s support of Georgia is much connected with its geopolitical interests, primarily strategic pipeline security in Georgia. “When we lost Abkhazia the US didn’t react much, but after Georgia became an oil transit country, Washington began to consider our interests too.”

The US and Russian Presidents have agreed to continue their meetings in the near future. “We, the leaders of Russia and the United States, are ready to move beyond Cold War mentalities and chart a fresh start in relations between our two countries. In just a few months we have worked hard to establish a new tone in our relations. Now it is time to get down to business and translate our warm words into actual achievements, of benefit to Russia, the United States, and all those around the world interested in peace and prosperity,” said the joint statement.