At the first U.S.-Russian summit in seven years, President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed to agree. This is a far greater accomplishment than it might seem, given the sorry state of bilateral relations that the two leaders inherited and the high costs of discord. The presidents established a framework for reducing their nuclear arsenals and signed an agreement giving the U.S. rights to fly military supplies across Russia to Afghanistan. More broadly, they chose to focus on areas of common interest rather than on the serious issues that divide the two countries. And while goodwill is not sufficient for resolving bilateral problems, it is an essential ingredient.
Consider some of the sources of bad blood in recent years: U.S. support for Kosovo's independence from Serbia; the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization into former Soviet republics along Russia's border; U.S. backing for Georgia over Russia in last year's conflict in the breakaway republic of South Ossetia. Russia has been enraged by U.S. plans to put missile defense batteries and radar in neighboring Poland and the Czech Republic; the United States, in turn, was irked by Russian pressure on Kyrgyzstan to evict the U.S. military from a base used for the war in Afghanistan, and has been critical of Russia's crony capitalism and lack of democracy. Against this backdrop, Monday's meeting was a success.