By Sam Youngman - 06/24/10 07:09 PM EDT
President Barack Obama welcomed Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to
the White House on Thursday, boasting that the two men have reset their
countries' relationship in a way unthinkable when Obama took office.
Obama, calling Medvedev his "friend and partner," said the discussion the two men shared over trade and economic issues "would have been unlikely just 17 months ago."
"There was too much distrust," Obama said.
But the president said he and Medvedev have accomplished a great deal in the last year and a half, and the relationship has improved even more, citing cooperation on nuclear disarmament agreements.
"By any measure, we have made significant progress and delivered concrete results," Obama said.
To that end, Obama said he and Medvedev "are not simply resetting our relationship but also broadening it."
Obama also endorsed Russia's proposed induction into the World Trade Organization, something Obama said he would like to see happen sooner rather than later.
"Russia belongs in the WTO," Obama said. "That's good for Russia. It's good for the United States, and it's good for the world economy."
The president said U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk has told him Russia has resolved 90 to 95 percent of the issues needed to be resolved to gain entry into the WTO.
Obama warned, though, that the remaining 5 to 10 percent are "difficult issues."
Medvedev agreed that the relationship between the two countries has come a long way.
The Russian president said he and Obama enjoy long phone calls, including a recent one that lasted for an hour and 45 minutes. Medvedev joked that after that long, his "ear starts getting stiff."
Obama said he was looking to return the hospitality shown to him and his family by Medvedev and the Russian people in Moscow last summer when he took the Russian president to Ray's Hell Burger in Arlington, Va., on Thursday before the press conference.
Medvedev called the burger joint "an interesting place."
"Probably it's not quite healthy, but it's very tasty," Medvedev said. "And you can feel the spirit of America."