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17 Mar, 2009 03:09

U.S.-Russian relations in bloom

Relations between the U.S. and Russia are showing signs of a spring warmth thanks to US President Barack Obama's pushing of the 'reset' button.

Both countries seem keen to keep squabbling to a minimum while agreeing that there's no shortage of problems to put their heads together on.

The U.S. is taking steps to reach out to Russia, according to two veteran U.S. politicians. Vietnam veteran Chuck Hagel and former presidential candidate Gary Hart have pushed aside their differences as they head a bipartisan commission to seek ways to improve international relations.

“We should define out relationship based upon common interests. Whether we’re talking about proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Western Europe, natural gas, energy, oil or the economy, we are all now part of this global community,” Hagel pointed out.

The two politicians recently flew to Moscow to meet with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and discuss ideas on moving bilateral relations forward. Speaking to RT about the visit, Hart noted:

“The reception was very positive, the leaders of the Russian government understand the purpose of the commission and what we are trying to do: to build a base of support not only in policy circles, but in the public at large, to improve the relationship.”

According to the commission, that relationship had reached a freezing point during the Bush administration. Nevertheless, Obama now is promising to push the reset button on the two countries’ affairs.

One of the stumbling blocks to a new start has been the U.S. plan to set up anti-ballistic missile defense systems in several European countries. Hart voiced the commission’s opinion on the subject:

“We should look for a system to protect ourselves and Russia, something that both countries could agree on. So we didn’t come out against missile defense, but we also strongly suggested that there are better ways to solve this problem.”

The G20 summit in April will provide the first meeting grounds for Obama and Medvedev. The presidents are expected to discuss economic and security issues which have now become shared issues to work through.

“We have big problems in the world, we are in a deep hole, but we can get out if we’re wise enough,” Hagel noted.

Nevertheless, the commission’s good intentions and optimistic lookout will need to be backed by the Obama administration acting on policy to bring about a final turnaround in the countries’ relations with Russia.