Obama Meets With Putin
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President Barack Obama, meeting Tuesday with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for the first time, called their talks "an excellent opportunity to put U.S.-Russian relations on a strong footing."
Putin told his guest: "With you, we link our hopes for the furtherance of relations between our two countries."
A White House official later said Mr. Obama and Putin "formed the basis of a good relation" during a two-hour meeting at Putin's residence outside Moscow.
A senior administration official described Mr. Obama's reaction this way: "I would say he's very convinced that the prime minister is a man of today and he's got his eyes firmly on the future."
Mr. Obama himself shared his thoughts about Putin to CBS News chief White House correspondent Chip Ried.
"He is smart, tough, shrewd... he is unsentimental," Mr. Obama said. (Read more from the interview.)
Putin warmly greeted Mr. Obama for talks on a clear, sunny morning in Nova Ogaryovo, a Moscow suburb where the prime minister's white and yellow traditional Russian-style mansion is situated along the Moscow River amid a forest of pine, birch and linden.
The body language was positive for both Mr. Obama and Putin, who had traded sharp barbs in the days preceding the U.S. president's flight to Moscow.
As the two appeared for a picture-taking session before commencing their private talks, Mr. Obama told Putin he "appreciated you taking the time to meet with me." For his part, Putin noted that U.S.-Russian relations have been marked by periods of chill, as well as times of relative warmth. And he said he was "glad to have the opportunity to get acquainted" with Obama, who is making his first trip to Russia.
The meeting, which lasted two hours - about 30 minutes longer than planned - came a day after Mr. Obama held talks with President Dmitry Medvedev and they agreed that the two countries would seek by year's end to cut their nuclear stockpiles by up to a third. Mr. Obama told Putin he thought he had had "excellent discussions" on Monday with Medvedev.
But Mr. Obama also said he recognizes that "we may not agree on everything."
The two leaders appeared together in an ornate room of Putin's country home, sitting in chairs placed in front of a highly colored traditional Russian ceramic stove that at one time would heated the room.
At the end of their brief meeting before reporters, Putin took Mr. Obama to a nearby window and pointed out a large outdoor balcony where they were to sit for their meetings over breakfast. The session took place on a clear day, in marked contrast to the cool, rain weather that Moscow saw for several days previously.
Putin's remarks seemed particularly cordial given his tart response last week to a comment that Mr. Obama made about him in an interview with The Associated Press. Mr. Obama said last Thursday that Putin still had one foot in the old, Cold War of doing things, and the prime minister retorted that he thought that observation to be quite a stretch.
Putin was accompanied at Tuesday's meeting by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. National security adviser Jim Jones, Russian affairs adviser Michael McFaul and Undersecretary of State William Burns were among those who accompanied Obama.
As one-on-one meetings go, Tuesday's session had a sense of diplomatic drama. It was a chance for Mr. Obama and Putin to take a measure of each other, offering a little definition to a relationship that thus far had been shaped by reputation and comments to the media.
Medvedev, Putin's hand-picked successor, is the one getting the bulk of Mr. Obama's attention and negotiation time. All sides know Putin still holds much power, too, but Mr. Obama sought Monday to cast his meetings with both men as simply reaching out to the whole government.
The Putin session started the second day of Mr. Obama's Moscow mission. The goal: Engage the Russian people and persuade them that their interests coincide with those of Americans.
The challenge is more daunting in this country, where Mr. Obama is viewed with much greater skepticism than in other parts of Europe and where the Russian people are wary of U.S. power.
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