The first summit between President Barack Obama and Dmitri Medvedev is only days away and so far there has only been perfunctory mention of this in the media. Odd, not to say irresponsible.
If played right this could be the most important summit since presidents Mikhail Gorbachev and George Bush, having torn down the Iron Curtain, decided that they had enough confidence in the other side to introduce unilateral nuclear arms cuts, a valuable ancillary to what they formally agreed.
In the opinion of Georgi Arbatov, Gorbachev’s (and before that Brezhnev’s) foreign affairs advisor, the time is overdue for more unilateral cuts. “Being honest”, he told me two summers’ ago, “we in Russia are not right in our approach. We have so many weapons we could decrease the numbers unilaterally and set an example. We could dismantle our rockets, take others off alert, and the Americans would be obliged to follow us.”
When I recently asked one of Medvedev’s advisors, Igor Yurgens, what the “re-set” button statement by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meant, he replied “the tone is different”. He then added, somewhat amusingly , “We have a new generation- Obama and Medvedev. Since they are both internet lovers then the promise of change could be substantiated.”
“The US and Russia have identical views on Afghanistan. We are on the same page as the US with North Korea. We have some nuances in policy towards Iran, but I think they are surmountable. So on those three plus Pakistan plus broader Middle East issues there is more that unites us than divides us.” On Iran, Yurgens was tough. “When President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is saying the Zionist state must be eliminated from the face of the earth everybody in Russia thinks he has gone too far and if he is re-elected in June [this interview was in May], and if there is no change in both vocabulary and in deeds, then it’s my expectation that we will come even closer to the US in certain positions.” However, Yurgens added an important caveat. “For the last century Iran has been a very good neighbour. But it…