Obama aiming to add substance to promise of changing US-Russia relations – Metro US

Obama aiming to add substance to promise of changing US-Russia relations

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama wants to produce early results after promising to reset relations with Russia, hoping to emerge from a Moscow summit next week with clear progress on reducing both nations’ nuclear arsenals and changing the way the Russian people view the United States.

Obama’s pursuit of a new U.S.-Russia nuclear arms pact to replace one that expires in December has dominated the attention focused on his trip to Moscow, the first stop in a weeklong trek that also will take him to Italy and Ghana.

But White House aides, describing the trip in detail for the first time on Wednesday, sought to put the expectations in broader terms.

That means advancing not just nuclear arms reductions but also co-operation on Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea and the broader threat of the spread of nuclear weapons. Obama plans to spend considerable time not just with Russia’s leaders but also its people in hopes of getting them to re-evaluate the United States.

“It’s not, in our view, a zero-sum game that if it’s two points for Russia, it’s negative two for us,” said Michael McFaul, senior director for Russian and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council. “There are ways that we can co-operate to advance our interests, and at the same time do things with the Russians that are good for them as well.”

U.S.-Russia relations plummeted last year after Russia’s war with the former Soviet republic Georgia. Other security issues also have served as obstacles, including the U.S. pursuit of a missile defence system in Europe and its support of NATO expansion that Russia has seen as encroachment.

The fifth foreign trip of Obama’s presidency will cover an enormous bit of ground, both in distance and in the breadth of topics on the agenda.

Beyond his two days in Moscow, Obama will spend parts of three days in international meetings in L’Aquila, the Italian mountain town devastated by an earthquake in April. The Group of Eight powers – Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan Russia and the United States – are convening there, a time for leaders to assess their response to a world recession, build momentum toward a global climate deal and cope with the latest crisis in Iran.

Developing economies and African nations will join the meetings at points to extend the geographic reach on matters such as security, trade and energy.

Obama also will meet at Vatican City with Pope Benedict XVI, their first meeting.

Then Obama will head to Ghana, a west African nation that the White House hails as a peaceful democracy on a continent often beset by violence. It will be Obama’s first visit to Africa as president. His plans include a major address and a visit to a castle that once served as a slave-trade hub.

All together, Obama will be gone from Sunday evening until the following Saturday, July 11.