The letter from President Vladimir Putin to his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama, which the Russian leader wrote to criticize the U.S. position on missile defense, has not discouraged Washington. The Americans are not ready to make any concessions to Russia. Instead, they expect to reach progress on the most sensitive issue in the relations between the two countries during personal meetings of Putin and Obama in June and September, a source in the U.S. State Department said.
Not that long ago, the two heads of state exchanged letters. At first, Obama's letter was brought to Moscow on April 15th by National Security adviser of the U.S. President, Thomas Donilon. In the letter, Obama offered Putin not to be distracted by little things, and focus on the main points of the bilateral cooperation.
In addition, Obama proposed to develop a legally binding agreement on the transparency of missile defense, which would not require the consent of the U.S. Congress. A weak point of such an agreement is that a successor to the U.S. president will have a right to cancel it.
Moscow perceived the message from Barack Obama "positively" but anonymous diplomatic sources indicated that the Russian side, under no circumstances, would give up the efforts to obtain legal guarantees saying that the missile defense would not be targeted against Russia. Washington strongly refuses to provide such guarantees to Russia.
On May 22nd, Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev arrived in the United States and personally gave Putin's message to Barack Obama. Nothing has been reported on the content of the letter by the Russian president. However, journalists found out that the key subject of the letter was the issue of missile defense. According to sources, Putin rejected Obama's idea to provide personal guarantees regarding interceptor missiles in Europe.
According to NATO officials, the United States is not going to make any further concessions to Russia. Moreover, it will be difficult to keep Obama's promises due to the start of the new electoral season. Obama's willingness to ignore national security for the sake of good relations with Moscow is likely to be raised during the season.
According to experts, chances of an agreement on missile defense between Russia and the United States are slim. Washington believes that they did everything to overcome the problem. In turn, in Moscow is not going to give up its requirements either. Russia will ok only legally binding guarantees from the U.S..
Nevertheless, observers lay hopes on Obama's meeting with Putin within the scope of international forums and on the June round of talks on missile defense between Moscow and Washington (on the level of Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov and his American counterpart Jim Miller). Bilateral talks between the presidents will be held during the G8 summit in Northern Ireland in June. In addition, it is expected that Obama will visit Moscow in September to talk to Putin, two days before the G20 summit in St. Petersburg.