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Obama Offered Deal to Russia in Secret Letter

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  • Beowulf
    Expect a lot of this to go on with Russia, China...Muslim states. B March 3, 2009 Obama Offered Deal to Russia in Secret Letter By
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      Expect a lot of this to go on with Russia, China...Muslim states.


      March 3, 2009

      Obama Offered Deal to Russia in Secret Letter

      dex.html?inline=nyt-per> PETER BAKER

      New York Times

      ndex.html?inline=nyt-per> President Obama sent a secret letter to
      ssiaandtheformersovietunion/index.html?inline=nyt-geo> Russia's president
      last month suggesting that he would back off deploying a new missile defense
      system in Eastern Europe if Moscow would help stop
      an/index.html?inline=nyt-geo> Iran from developing long-range weapons,
      American officials said Monday.

      The letter to President
      dev/index.html?inline=nyt-per> Dmitri A. Medvedev was hand-delivered in
      Moscow by top administration officials three weeks ago. It said the United
      States would not need to proceed with the interceptor system, which has been
      vehemently opposed by Russia since it was proposed by the Bush
      administration, if Iran halted any efforts to build nuclear warheads and
      ballistic missiles.

      The officials who described the contents of the message requested anonymity
      because it has not been made public. While they said it did not offer a
      direct quid pro quo, the letter was intended to give Moscow an incentive to
      join the United States in a common front against Iran. Russia's military,
      diplomatic and commercial ties to Tehran give it some influence there, but
      it has often resisted Washington's hard line against Iran.

      "It's almost saying to them, put up or shut up," said a senior
      administration official. "It's not that the Russians get to say, 'We'll try
      and therefore you have to suspend.' It says the threat has to go away."

      On Tuesday, a press secretary for Dmitri A. Medvedev told the Interfax news
      agency that the letter did not contain any "specific proposals or mutually
      binding initiatives."

      Natalya Timakova said the letter was a reply to one sent by Mr. Medvedev
      shortly after Mr. Obama was elected.

      "Medvedev appreciated the promptness of the reply and the positive spirit of
      the message," Ms. Timakova said. "Obama's letter contains various proposals
      and assessments of the current situation. But the message did not contain
      any specific proposals or mutually binding initiatives."

      She said Mr. Medvedev perceives the development of Russian-American
      relations as "exceptionally positive," and hopes details can be fleshed out
      at a meeting on Friday in Geneva between Foreign Minister Sergei V. Lavrov
      and Secretary of State
      _clinton/index.html?inline=nyt-per> Hillary Rodham Clinton.

      Mr. Obama and Mr. Medvedev will meet for the first time on April 2 in
      London, officials said Monday.

      Mr. Obama's letter, sent in response to one he received from Mr. Medvedev
      shortly after Mr. Obama's inauguration, is part of an effort to "press the
      reset button" on Russian-American relations, as Vice President
      den/index.html?inline=nyt-per> Joseph R. Biden Jr. put it last month,
      officials in Washington said. Among other things, the letter discussed talks
      to extend a strategic arms treaty expiring this year and cooperation in
      opening supply routes to Afghanistan.

      The plan to build a high-tech radar facility in the Czech Republic and
      deploy 10 interceptor missiles in Poland - a part of the world that Russia
      once considered its sphere of influence - was a top priority for President
      index.html?inline=nyt-per> George W. Bush to deter Iran in case it developed
      a nuclear warhead to fit atop its long-range missiles. Mr. Bush never
      accepted a Moscow proposal to install part of the missile defense system on
      its territory and jointly operate it so it could not be used against Russia.

      Now the Obama administration appears to be reconsidering that idea, although
      it is not clear if it would want to put part of the system on Russian soil
      where it could be flipped on or off by Russians. Mr. Obama has been lukewarm
      on missile defense, saying he supports it only if it can be proved
      technically effective and affordable.

      Mr. Bush also emphasized the linkage between the Iranian threat and missile
      defense, but Mr. Obama's overture reformulates it in a way intended to
      appeal to the Russians, who long ago soured on the Bush administration.
      Officials have been hinting at the possibility of an agreement in recent
      weeks, and Mr. Obama's proposal was reported on Monday by a Moscow
      newspaper, Kommersant.

      "If through strong diplomacy with Russia and our other partners we can
      reduce or eliminate that threat, it obviously shapes the way at which we
      look at missile defense," Under Secretary of State William J. Burns said
      about the Iranian threat in an interview with the Russian news agency
      Interfax while in Moscow last month delivering Mr. Obama's letter.

      Attending a
      tlantic_treaty_organization/index.html?inline=nyt-org> NATO meeting in
      Krakow, Poland, on Feb. 20, Defense Secretary
      /index.html?inline=nyt-per> Robert M. Gates said, "I told the Russians a
      year ago that if there were no Iranian missile program, there would be no
      need for the missile sites." Mr. Obama's inauguration, he added, offered the
      chance for a fresh start. "My hope is that now, with the new administration,
      the prospects for that kind of cooperation might have improved," he said.

      The idea has distressed Poland and the Czech Republic, where leaders
      invested political capital in signing missile defense cooperation treaties
      with the United States despite domestic opposition. If the United States
      were to slow or halt deployment of the systems, Warsaw and Prague might
      insist on other incentives.

      For example, the deal with Poland included a side agreement that an American
      Patriot air defense battery would be moved from Germany to Poland, where it
      would be operated by a crew of about 100 American service members. The
      administration might have to proceed with that to reassure Warsaw.

      Missile defense has flavored Mr. Obama's relationship with Russia from the
      day after his election, when Mr. Medvedev threatened to point missiles at
      Europe if the system proceeded. Mr. Medvedev later backed off that threat
      and it seems that Moscow is taking seriously the idea floated in Mr. Obama's
      letter. Kommersant, the Moscow newspaper, on Monday called it a "sensational

      Mr. Medvedev said Sunday that he believed the Obama administration would be
      open to cooperation on missile defense.

      "We have already received such signals from our American colleagues," he
      said in an interview posted on the Kremlin Web site. "I expect that these
      signals will turn into concrete proposals. I hope to discuss this issue of
      great importance for Europe during my first meeting with President
      ndex.html?inline=nyt-per> Barack Obama."

      David E. Sanger and Thom Shanker contributed reporting from Washington, and
      Michael Schwirtz and Ellen Barry from Moscow.



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