Obama, Medvedev hail agreements; tension persists

President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev outlined a series of agreements the two countries reached Monday, but both presidents acknowledged they continue to be at an impasse on some key matters.

At a wide-ranging press conference in Moscow, Obama and Medvedev hailed a framework agreement to continue and expand the nuclear arms START treaty, which expires in December. Obama said the treaty, which still has to be ratified, could reduce both countries' nuclear stockpiles by a third.

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Questions about Georgia and Ukraine and a proposed missile defense system in Europe, though, continue to be sticking points for the two countries.

But Obama and Medvedev pledged continued cooperation, and both hailed what they were able to accomplish in a short amount of time following their first meeting in London in April.

"It is not a simple job because the backlog of problems is quite impressive," Medvedev said, adding that he and Obama had "a discussion of these problems in a businesslike manner."

Obama hailed the nuclear reduction agreement and another that will allow the U.S. to transport lethal materials through Russia to Afghanistan.

"These are not second-tier issues," Obama said.

But preempting a question on the controversial missile defense system, Obama, in his opening remarks, raised the specters of both North Korea and Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, and he said later that those are two reasons to continue to study a missile defense program.

Both presidents said they plan to continue discussions on the issue, but Medvedev hinted that including Russia in the discussions was a step in the right direction.

On Georgia, Obama said he "reiterated my firm belief" that the country's sovereignty should be respected by Russia, but he said there seemed to be agreement that neither party wants to see another military conflict.

Of particular note was Obama's response to a question about who's actually in charge in Russia. Many analysts have long thought Medvedev to be a puppet of former president and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, whom Obama is set to have breakfast with Tuesday.

"My understanding is that President Medvedev is the president. Prime Minister Putin is the prime minister," Obama said.

The president says he "trusts President Medvedev to not only listen and to negotiate constructively but also to follow through."