MOSCOW—President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced this morning that they had reached agreements on a range of issues including a framework to reduce their nations' nuclear arsenals and steps to fight terrorism, including the war in Afghanistan.
The announced agreements had been expected as Obama kicked off his weeklong trip to Russia, the G-8 in Europe and Ghana by meeting with Medvedev this morning.
The presidents are scheduled to hold a joint news conference shortly. Earlier, both presidents sounded an optimistic note about repairing relations in this, the first formal U.S.-Russia summit since early in the Bush administration.
"The United States and Russia have more in common than they have differences," Obama said he sat down with Medvedev.
"We'll have a full-fledged discussion of our relations between our two countries, closing some of the pages of the past and opening some of the pages of the future," Medvedev said, through a translator.
Politically, the White House is hoping to use the Russia trip as a way to cast Obama as more than just a likable world leader, but a tough-minded one as well. The United States is hoping to enlist Russian support for a host of issues, including Iran and North Korea, both of which have nuclear ambitions. Other issues included terrorism, the war in Afghanistan, global warming and to how cope with the worldwide economic slowdown.
Obama will go home with at least some signed agreements, including one to establish a framework for reducing U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals.
After the two leaders met in London this spring, their aides worked to hammer out details of disarmament agreements. The goal is to replace the START arms control treaty, which expires at the end of this year. The eventual deal could cut warheads from more than 2,000 to as few as 1,500 for each country.
"We have instructed our experts to work together to analyze the ballistic missile challenges of the 21st century and to prepare appropriate recommendations, giving priority to the use of political and diplomatic methods," the presidents said in a joint statement.
"At the same time they plan to conduct a joint review of the entire spectrum of means at our disposal that allow us to cooperate on monitoring the development of missile programs around the world," they said.
The agreement to continuing continue talking lacked details to give the parties more room to talk. Gary Samore, the White House point man on weapons of mass destruction, has acknowledged that a major point of contention is the U.S. push for a missile defense system based in Poland and the Czech Republic. Russian officials consider that a direct challenge to their nuclear program.
The leaders also announced Russia's agreement to let the United States use its territory and airspace to move arms into Afghanistan. Other pacts include a new joint commission to try to account for missing service members of both countries dating to World War II and fresh cooperation on public health issues.
In addition to meeting with Medvedev, Obama is scheduled to meet tomorrow with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin, who ostensibly is No. 2 in the Kremlin but is widely believed to be the real power. Putin picked Medvedev, a protege, to be his successor as president in 2008.
Obama and his family arrived early this morning, stepping off Air Force One under a gray sky. The president, first lady Michelle Obama and their two daughters met a small greeting party at the airport.
As they made their way from the airport into Moscow, the streets were lined with intermittent groups of people who silently watched the motorcade pass. A few waved the "peace" sign.
At the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a military band played a mournful tune as a military escort accompanied the Obamas in a slow procession to a bowl with a flickering flame. The soldiers placed a wreath before the flame, and Obama slightly adjusted it before the band struck up the U.S. national anthem.
The summit starts a weeklong trip for Obama that also features G-8 meetings in Italy, a visit with the pope and a speech in Ghana.