Obama To Visit Russia In July

The Kremlin said that President Obama will travel to Russia July 6-8, where talks are expected to focus on nuclear weapons reductions and broader improvements the US-Russian relationship.

The dates for Mr. Obama's Russian trip, scheduled just before the July G-8 meeting in Italy, were posted on the Kremlin Web site on Monday.

Mr. Obama had his first face-to-face meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the London G-20 summit in April. Talks there focused on plans for negotiations on a treaty to further reduce nuclear weapons.

After that meeting, Medvedev and other Russian officials had warm words for the new U.S. administration's recognition that Moscow was an important player in world affairs. But it is unclear how far and how fast relations between the two countries can advance after years of harsh rhetoric on both sides, which led to talk of a new Cold War.

The U.S. has talked about "pushing the reset button" in dealing with Russia, and has focused early efforts on arms control.

Meanwhile, Russia's foreign minister on Tuesday signaled Moscow's readiness for compromise on a new nuclear arms control agreement with the United States and said he hopes for a deal by year's end, according to news reports.

Sergey Lavrov praised Mr. Obama's administration for taking a constructive stance in talks with Russia, adding that diplomats from both nations are now working on detailed platforms on arms control, Russian news agencies reported.

He said preliminary contacts have shown that "there is a good chance to bring our positions closer and reach agreements." He added, "The U.S. approach seems very constructive to me."

Lavrov spoke to Russian reporters after returning from a visit to the United States where he held talks with Mr. Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Mr. Obama and Medvedev agreed during their meeting in London last month to fast-track negotiations on an agreement to replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, which expires in December.

"We hope that by the year's end we will be able to negotiate a mutually acceptable text of a new treaty, although we are pressed by time," Lavrov said.

He said Russia would like a new deal to count all nuclear warheads, including those in storage. But he signaled that there is a room for compromise, adding that Moscow is ready to listen to the U.S. arguments to the contrary.

"We aren't saying a categorical 'no' to the position taken by the Americans," Lavrov said. "It's key to have such an agreement that would encompass all warheads and all their delivery means. As for warheads kept at depots, it's important to understand if and how exactly they will be accounted for."

He added that Russia is expecting specific U.S. proposals on the issue and will analyze them "based primarily on the criterion of equal security."

START I, signed by Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and President George H.W. Bush, called for each country to cut its nuclear warheads by at least one-quarter, to about 6,000.

A second deal - the so-called Treaty of Moscow - was signed in 2002 and called for cutting each country's nuclear arsenal further, to 1,700-2,200 warheads by 2012. The document was closely based on START I rules and verification procedures.

The 2002 pact only counted the so-called "operationally deployed warheads," or those attached to missiles.

Russia has criticized that provision, saying it could allow parties to quickly boost their arsenals by moving extra warheads from stockpiles.