The Cable

Top State Department official: U.S.-Russia diplomatic analogy could use a reset

One year after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to Moscow to present the "reset" button to her Russian counterpart Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Under Secretary of State William J. Burns expressed some discomfort with how the publicity stunt has colored U.S.-Russia-relations ever since.

"The concept of ‘reset' carried with it the misleading notion that the slate could be wiped clean with the push of a button, starting anew unburdened by the past. Reality, of course, is a little more complicated," Burns told an audience at the Center for American Progress Wednesday. "But for the first time in a long time, the possibilities before us outnumber the problems."

Burns, who was U.S. ambassador to Moscow from 2005 until 2008, has traveled there several times in his new role, mainly as part of his efforts to broker a fourth U.N. Security Council resolution sanctioning Iran over its nuclear program.

The under secretary's remarks echoed the friendly tone struck by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who told a Brookings Institution crowd Tuesday, "I am glad that in the past year plus we have managed to change the atmosphere of Russian-American relations."

Medvedev also reiterated Russia's position that a new round of U.N. sanctions on Iran may be warranted, but expressed his opposition to "paralyzing, crippling sanctions" that would hurt Iran's people -- a likely reference to broad-based restrictions on Iran's ability to import refined petroleum products, which some on Capitol Hill are pushing.

Listing a number of areas where the United States and Russia have managed to work together over the past year, notably in agreeing to reduce their stockpiles of nuclear weapons, Burns identified economic cooperation as "one of the most underdeveloped areas of our relationship."

Russia's economic ties to the United States remain embryonic, and Moscow has long accused Washington of holding up its bid to join the World Trade Organization over political matters. The United States imported just $18 billion in goods from Russia in 2009 -- about what it imported from Canada each month -- and exported just over $5 billion last year.

"The United States strongly supports Russia's accession to the WTO," Burns said, in an apparent response to Medvedev's complaint that Moscow should be admitted "without humiliation or new demands."

"We should have been in the WTO a long time ago," Medvedev said.

"We ought to be able to build on shared interests while not pulling our punches on differences, and take steps that benefit both of us without grand bargains or tradeoffs that come at the expense of others," Burns said. "That is admittedly easier said than done."

The Cable

Who did Clinton meet with at the summit?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had a busy couple of days Monday and Tuesday. As part of the leadership team hosting the 47-nation nuclear security summit, she and her staff certainly had their hands full.

And Clinton did her best to meet with as many of her foreign interlocutors as possible, in addition to the 12 bilateral meetings she participated in with President Obama. Some of the meetings were fully fledged discussions, some were quick chats the diplomats call "pull-asides," and for one meeting she even left the convention center and went a foreign leader's hotel.

Here are most, but not all, of the foreign officials Clinton met with this week who were not of the official schedule:

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore, Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci of Algeria, Foreign Minister Ahmad Aboul Gheit of Egypt, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey, Foreign Minister Taïb Fassi Fihri of Morocco, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya of Thailand (pull aside), Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov of Russia (with whom she signed an agreement), Foreign Minister Mariano Fernandez Amunategui of Chile, Foreign MinisterCelso Luiz Nunes Amorim of Brazil, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung of Vietnam, and Foreign Secretary David Miliband of Britain (pull aside).

So who was it that Clinton was willing to travel outside the convention center's military cordon to go see? Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani, who was holding court at Georgetown's Four Seasons Hotel. Why the special trip? Gilani outranks her, so protocol dictated that Clinton do the traveling.

Deputy Secretary James Steinberg had a string of meetings this week as well. The most interesting one was an unannounced session with Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor. That was the only high-level meeting Israel's nuclear delegation had, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told The Cable.

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