Senators Advise Obama Before Meeting with Medvedev

Medvedev and Obama in April.  Source: AFPThree US senators were urging President Barack Obama to stand up for democratic values ahead of his upcoming visit to Moscow to meet with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev.  Senators Jim DeMint (R-SC), Jon Kyl (R- AZ) and Roger Wicker (R- MS) wrote a letter urging Obama to raise three major issues between the two nations.  The complete text, with highlighted key passages, is reprinted below.  Obama will travel to Russia on Monday.

United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

June 29, 2009

The Honorable Barack H. Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing in regard to your upcoming visit to the Russian Federation and your meeting with President Medvedev.

As you attempt to set a new tone with the Russians, we believe there are issues of common interest, but we also believe it is crucial that you vigorously defend the values that have been the cornerstone of free markets and free societies. At a minimum, below are three key issues we believe you must raise.

First, with the coming expiration of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, there is little time to complete negotiations.  However, the United States must not concede the key issues in exchange for expediency.  One specific point is the linkage Russian leaders have made between the United States abandoning missile defense and reducing nuclear weapons.

There should be no quid pro quo between deploying defensive capabilities like missile defense and the reduction of offensive nuclear weapons either in a treaty or through separate agreements.  This is essential to our close Czech and Polish allies and a key factor in placement of the “third site.”

Second, during her confirmation process before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary Clinton said the United States “cannot accept the notion that Russia has a special say over the future of its independent neighbors.”  Whether it is Georgia, Ukraine, Estonia, or other neighbors, Russia aggressively exerts a “special say” over its neighbors.  However, undermining UN peacekeeping operations or the European Union’s Monitoring Mission in Georgia, waging economic warfare with energy during the winter, and conducting cyberattacks are not the actions of a proud and constructive nation.

It is important President Medvedev understands that the United States strongly supports the independence and self determination of all the former Soviet Republics.  As a Senator, you cosponsored a number of resolutions on the ascension of Ukraine and Georgia into NATO, and we hope you will specifically reaffirm this support with President Medvedev.

Finally, as you know, the interests of the Russian people and the Russian elites are not always the same.  It is important that you seriously address issues like corruption and rule of law, and also take time to visit with members of the opposition and civil society, especially those leaders who are not closely associated with the Kremlin.

There are many tough, but important issues in the relationship between the United States and Russia.  It is imperative that the words you deliver in Moscow are well received in the capitals of our close friends and allies in Eastern Europe and elsewhere.

We wish you the best of luck on your upcoming trip, and look forward to working together to ensure success in U.S.-Russia relations upon your return.

Jim DeMint
Jon Kyl
Roger Wicker

CC: The Honorable Hillary R. Clinton
Secretary of State
The Honorable Robert M. Gates
Secretary of Defense