About the Author: William J. Burns serves as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs.
I was pleased to be back in Moscow September 7-8. It was an honor to serve as Ambassador there, and I remain very much committed to doing everything I can to help strengthen U.S.-Russian relations, which is in the interest of both countries. Russia and the United States have made a lot of progress together over the course of the last 18 months and have some tangible achievements to point to: the New START Treaty, diplomatic cooperation on issues ranging from North Korea to Iran, an air transit agreement that has facilitated the travel of 60,000 U.S. military personnel to join international forces in Afghanistan, and the establishment of a new presidential commission, which has paid practical dividends for both countries. The challenge now is to keep moving forward.
As President Obama and President Medvedev agreed in Washington in June, we now want to widen the arc of cooperation to encompass investment, trade and innovation. The centerpiece of this next phase of our relationship is to support Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization. In my meetings with First Deputy Prime Minister Shuvalov and Finance Minister Kudrin, I emphasized that President Obama has made this one of his highest priorities in our bilateral relations. The Russian Government has set a target of September 30 to resolve a number of outstanding issues and we believe there is good progress in that direction.
In my discussions with Foreign Minister Lavrov and Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov, we reviewed the status in both countries of ratification of the New START Treaty and the resubmission of the 123 agreement on civilian nuclear coperation to the U.S. Congress. We believe that New START is a very good agreement and in the interest of both countries. I also appreciated the opportunity, as I always do in Moscow, to meet with civil society and human rights leaders. We had a useful and wide ranging discussion. It was regrettable that Lev Ponomarev, who was supposed to be at the meeting, was not able to attend.
My visit was a reminder that we have a very full and challenging agenda before us, but I think the United States and Russia have a great deal to gain by working together.