“Of course we didn’t expect that we would find ourselves in Washington so quickly,” a high ranking Kremlin official said in an interview with the Vremya Novostei newspaper meaning that it would have taken a lot more time to prepare Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to the USA if the anti-crisis G20 summit had not taken place. Such a visit would not have happened under Bush’s rule, and it would take quite a time for Medvedev to arrive in Washington to shake hands with Barack Obama after he would officially take office as the next president of the United States.
Nevertheless, Medvedev met neither Bush, nor Obama during his one-day stay in the US capital. Instead, the Russian president participated in the discussion organized by the Council for Foreign Affairs, an influential non-governmental organization, which, apart from everything else, publishes Foreign Affairs magazine. Madeleine Albright, the former US secretary of state, a member of Obama’s team, hosted the meeting.
Dmitry Medvedev set out a hope that the relations between Russia and the United States would improve after the election of the new president. The Russian leader stated that he was disappointed with the results of cooperation with the outgoing US administration.
“I believe that the current US-Russian relations do not have the trust that they need today. That is why we link our hopes with the new administration. Naturally, the outgoing administration has done a lot to lay the foundation of modern US-Russian relations, although, unfortunately, it is not enough. We have not been able to find common language on many issues. It is sad, but it is true,” Medvedev said.
The questions that Madeleine Albright and other participants of the meeting asked the Russian president were not a surprise to Mr. Medvedev: Russia’s response to the deployment of the US missile defense system in Eastern Europe, the details of the conflict with Georgia, the expansion of NATO and others. Medvedev said that there were serious problem in all of those issues, which could be solved with the help of the US administration. Medvedev said that Moscow was originally ready to discuss the issues of the Georgian crisis and the missile defense system, although Washington lost its interest in the dialogue.
Speaking about the possible deployment of Russian missiles in the Kaliningrad enclave, Medvedev said that he was forced to formulate Russia’s response to USA’s plans in Poland and the Czech Republic. “But we are not going to do anything until America makes the first step. If this step is going to be that unsuccessful as it is presently supposed to be, we will have to act too. But I believe that we have very good opportunities to settle the problem. We can develop a global defense system or find some decisions on the existent programs which could be good for the Russian Federation. This question is not closed, and I am personally ready for its discussion and I hope that the new president and the new administration will have a wish to discuss it. At any rate, the first signals that we have received show that our new partners think about the problem and are not going to cast it aside,” Medvedev said.
Answering a question about Russia’s possible membership in NATO, Dmitry Medvedev said that the alliance already had an opportunity to invite Russia, although the current state of affair is completely different. “We would like to develop normal and friendly relations with NATO. It is not a problem. Moreover, if our colleagues see additional opportunities to develop such relations, we are ready to consider them. Russia is not closed for discussing any forms of cooperation with NATO, if it meets the interests of peace on the planet. I do not know how easy it is to analyze an opportunity for Russia to join NATO. I think that the situation does not dispose to it for the time being, but, like they say, never say never,” Mr. Medvedev said.
Speaking about the extension of the presidential term in Russia, Dmitry Medvedev said that Russia needs to have a stable political system which includes a strong parliament and a strong presidential power. The world is changing. Let’s remember the French constitution under De Gaulle’s rule, when they had the seven-year presidential term. I don’t know, maybe in 30 or 40 years the problems that we face today will be solved and we will be able to return to some other terms, although it is not going to be my problem already,” he said.