Page last updated at 09:57 GMT, Tuesday, 7 July 2009 10:57 UK

Obama urges shift in Russia ties

President Obama: "I have called for a 'reset' in relations"

US President Barack Obama has urged Russia to turn from the past, emphasising the common goals the US shares with its former Cold War rival.

He told young graduates in Moscow they were the "last generation" to be born in a "divided world".

Mr Obama sought to reassure the country that the US sought a "strong, peaceful and prosperous" Russia.

The speech comes on the second day of Mr Obama's visit to Moscow and followed his first meeting with Vladimir Putin.

During the breakfast talks he told the former president turned prime minister that he had done "extraordinary work" leading Russia.

Jonathan Marcus
Jonathan Marcus, Moscow

President Barack Obama's speech began with conventional references to Russia's timeless heritage. He mentioned the Russian people's suffering during World War II.

There was inevitably some geo-politics. Mr Obama said that "the days when empires could treat sovereign states as pieces on a chess board are over". That will be taken as a clear stab at those in the Russian leadership who still see their former-Soviet neighbours as a Russian sphere of influence.

But in his choice of audience - students from a business school "founded with Western support but now distinctly Russian" as he put it - he was hinting at the sort of society he hoped Russia would become.

Mr Obama said in his speech: "Partnership will be stronger if Russia occupies its rightful place as a great power."

He said both Russia and the US had shared common goals in, for example, preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.

"It is not for me to define Russia's national interests, but I can tell you about America's, and I believe that you will see we share common ground," he told the audience at the New Economic School in Moscow.

Mr Obama said that neither the US nor Russia would benefit from a nuclear arms race in East Asia or the Middle East.

"That is why we should be united in opposing North Korea's efforts to become a nuclear power, and preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon," he said.

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Mr Obama called on Russia to accept a "fundamental change", without which, he suggested the next two decades would inevitably bring about the further spread of nuclear weapons.

"That is why America is committed to stopping nuclear proliferation, and ultimately seeking a world without nuclear weapons," he said.

He suggested that Russia and the US could also co-operate in areas including energy and on the challenges of defeating extremism.

He said America's clear goal was to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaeda and its allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan but did not seek bases in, nor to control, these nations.

Preventing nuclear proliferation
Tackling extremism
Global prosperity
Human rights
International co-operation

"Instead, we want to work with international partners to help Afghans and Pakistanis advance their own security and prosperity. That is why I'm pleased that Russia has agreed to allow the United States to supply our coalition forces through your territory," he said.

He said the international financial crisis had highlighted the need and potential for unified co-operation between nations beyond the economic sphere.

"We can forge partnerships on energy that tap not only traditional resources, but the new sources of energy that will drive growth and combat climate change. All of that, Americans and Russians can do together."

New partnerships

Mr Obama urged the fellow nuclear power to respect international borders, human rights and democratic principles, as well as tackle corruption.


"People everywhere should have the right to do business or get an education without paying a bribe," he said.

"That is not an American idea or a Russian idea - that's how people and countries will succeed in the 21st Century."

Mr Obama then went on to hold what the White House described as a "good meeting" with former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

On Monday, after meeting Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Mr Obama signed eight separate agreements with Russia.

These, he said during the speech would "substantially reduce our warheads and delivery systems".

Among the deals was a pact to negotiate a new arms control treaty to replace the 1991 Start I pact which expires in December.

A new agreement could see the two countries reducing their nuclear warheads by up to a third, to below 1,700 each within seven years of the treaty's signing.

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