In a secret letter sent last month, President Obama made overtures to Russia for a deal that could involve ending the U.S. missile defense program in Eastern Europe in return for Moscow's help in stopping Iran from developing its nuclear program, officials said last night.
The letter, which was given to Russian President Dmitri Medvedev three weeks ago, stated that the United States wouldn't need to continue with its new program if Iran stopped its long-range weapons development, according to a report in the New York Times. Although Russia has some influence with Iran, Moscow has often resisted Washington's hard line toward Tehran.
Washington has plans in place to set up a missile base in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic. These projects have infuriated Russian leaders, who see them as a threat on their border. However, administration officials have been hinting lately that they want to repair U.S.-Russian ties; last month, Vice President Biden said that the White House wanted to "press the reset button" on the relationship.
At least in public, it appears that the notion of a direct trade-off has been rebuffed by Russia. In Madrid today, Medvedev said that "it's not productive" to talk about "some sort of trade or exchange" regarding the missile defense shield and influence with Tehran. He said, however, that he is pleased that U.S. officials "are willing to discuss this problem." That's "already good," he said, "because just a few months ago, we were receiving different signals."
And when asked about the deal at a news conference today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, although declining to be specific, underscored that "we intend to do all that we can to deter and prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons."
A "broad agenda" of items, she said, would be addressed Friday when she meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva.