U.S. President Barack Obama is urging Russians to work with the United States to
tackle the big security and economic problems of our time. In a speech to
graduates of an economics school, Mr. Obama made the case for better
The president began his day in Moscow by wrapping up talks
with Russian leaders.
He met for the first time with Russian Prime
Minister - and former President - Vladimir Putin who many analysts consider the
most powerful man in the country.
Their words were cordial. Their tone
"We may not end up agreeing on everything, but I think that
we can have a tone of mutual respect and consultation that will serve both the
American people and the Russian people well," said Mr. Obama.
A few hours later, the president shifted focus and
took his case for better relations directly to the Russian people.
venue was a graduation ceremony for the New Economic School, which was
established in Moscow, after the fall of the Soviet Union, by Americans and
Russians eager to provide training in free market theory.
Mr. Obama told
the graduates that much has changed in the last 20 years. And, he talked about
at length about just how the United States sees the future of relations with its
former Cold War adversary.
"To begin with, let me be clear: America wants
a strong, peaceful and prosperous Russia," he said. "This belief is rooted in
our respect for the Russian people and a shared history between our nations that
goes beyond competition."
He said the old Cold War assumption that
America and Russia can only exist as antagonists who compete for spheres of
influence is wrong.
"That is why I have called for a "reset" in relations
between the United States and Russia. This must be more than a fresh start
between the Kremlin and the White House - (al)though that is important and I
have had excellent discussions with both your president and prime minister,"
said President Obama. "It must be a sustained effort among the American and
Russian people to identify mutual interests and to expand dialogue and
cooperation that can pave the way to progress."
But the president made
clear that, in his search for common ground, he is not going to set aside
principles that he thinks are important.
He talked about human rights and
matters of national sovereignty - issues that have created friction with Moscow
in the past.
"Just as all states should have the right to choose their
leaders, states must have the right to borders that are secure and to their own
foreign policies. That is true for Russia, just as it is true for the United
States," he said. "Any system that cedes those rights will lead to anarchy. That
is why this principle must apply to all nations - including Georgia and
Russia is vehemently opposed to the notion of NATO membership
for the two former Soviet bloc countries. President Obama says he does not seek
to impose a security arrangement on any nation. He noted Ukraine and Georgia
must still clear many hurdles to be eligible for alliance membership. And, he
stressed once again that NATO seeks collaboration with Russia, not