Thursday, 2 April 2009

Diplomacy Works

There are a couple of signs emerging that the Obama administration's reset button is working. Russia appears to be responding to American diplomatic overtures with a softening of their own line in a couple of areas.

Ria Novosti are reporting that: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday there is a good chance Russia will not have to place Iskander missiles in the Kaliningrad Region in response to the U.S. missile shield in Europe. "We had a talk on this issue with the U.S. president. At a minimum I can say that today the U.S. has a desire to listen to our argument. They are not trying to cut off [talks] and say that the decision has already been made."

President Obama and his team have been backing away from the Bush line on missile defences in Europe for some time, and now that approach appears to be earning some reciprocation from Russia. The last thing NATO or anyone wants is a new nuclear dividing line in Eastern Europe. And this statement makes that less likely.

And a second positive signal has come over Afghanistan. The US has been seeking northern supply routes into the country for military supplies. While Russia has allowed non-lethal supplies to transit its territory, it has also been pressuring its neighbours to cut off US and NATO supply routes - hence the announced closure of by Kyrgyz authorities of the Manas air base, a key part of US logisitics infrastructure in the region.

Now, Russia has offered to discuss the transit of military supplies through their airspace. As the BBC says:

Russia has agreed to discuss the transit of American military supplies to Afghanistan across its territory. The foreign ministry in Moscow said Russia was ready to co-operate if asked by the US. Last month, Russia began allowing the movement of non-lethal supplies to US and Nato forces in Afghanistan. The new offer of discussions comes a day after Russia and the US agreed to resume negotiations on reducing their nuclear arsenals.

All this makes for a good start to the Obama-Medvedev relationship. Hopefully, the positive signals will carry through the Summit and into a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in May.

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