Obama, Putin Mend Fences, Cut Nuclear Arsenals

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President Obama used a touch of charm and humor in his efforts to warm up strained U.S.-Russian relations as he met with Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in his country home.

"I also want to thank the prime minister for arranging nice weather," Obama said as he greeted Putin.

Rather than wait, the president believes that now is the time to decrease any tensions between to two countries.

"We think this is an excellent opportunity to put U.S.-Russia relations on a much stronger foot," he added.

In their first face-to-face meeting, Putin - the former president widely considered the most powerful player in Russian politics - acknowledged the two countries had seen better times.

"With you we link all our hopes for the furtherance of relations between our two countries," Putin said.

Their meeting came one day after President Obama and his counterpart signed a new treaty to reduce the American and Russian nuclear arsenals by one-third. Together, the two countries control more than 90 percent of the world's nuclear weapons.
    
Obama said Russia and the U.S. must lead by example and keep their commitments.  He urged others to do the same.

"North Korea has abandoned it's own commitments and violated international law," Obama said. "Iran also poses a serious challenge through it's failure to live up to international obligations. This is not just a problem for the United States, it raises the prospect of a nuclear arms race in the middle east."
    
Moscow has also agreed to allow American cargo to move through Russian airspace in order to transport military supplies to U.S. troops fighting the war in Afghanistan.

"I think it shows that Russians and Americans have a lot in common and the people themselves want to see much better relationships between the countries on a geo-political basis," said Andrew Somers, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia.
    
There were plenty of disagreeable points between the two countries, such as Russia's interference in Georgia and the Ukraine, and most notably, the Kremlin's objection to U.S. plans to build a missile defense system in eastern Europe.

It is not only Russia's government that has been wary of U.S. intentions.  Russian citizens have been skeptical, too.

President Obama tried to win over public support at a speech to graduates of Moscow's new economic school.

"In 2009, a great power does not show strength by dominating or demonizing other countries," he said. "The days when empires could treat sovereign states as pieces on a chess board are over."

However, just like the game of chess, diplomacy requires tactile strategy and a lot of patience.  The White House remains hopeful that this trip will pay off in the future.

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