President Barack Obama declared Thursday that he and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev have "succeeded in resetting" the relationship between the former Cold War adversaries that had dipped to a dangerous low in recent years.
Obama directly acknowledged differences in some areas, such as Moscow's tensions with neighboring Georgia, but said "we addressed those differences candidly." And he announced that the U.S. and Russia had agreed to expand cooperation on intelligence and the counterterror fight and worked on strengthening economic ties between the nations.
Obama gave Russia perhaps the biggest gift it could have wanted from the meetings: an unqualified, hearty plug for Moscow's ascension to the World Trade Organization. Russia has long wanted membership but U.S. support in the past has come with conditions.
"Russia belongs in the WTO," Obama said as the two leaders stood side-by-side in the East Room after several hours of meetings -- including an impromptu trip to a nearby burger joint for lunch.
The leaders faced questions about the U.S.-led Afghanistan war, and Obama promised that the U.S. will "not miss a beat" because of the change in military command that he ordered on Wednesday. Obama accepted Gen. Stanley McChrystal's resignation and replaced him with his direct boss, Gen. David Petraeus.
Petraeus "understands the strategy because he helped shape it," Obama said.
Medvedev seemed reluctant to wade into the topic, recalling the ultimately disastrous Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.
"I try not to give pieces of advice that cannot be fulfilled," Medvedev said. "This is a very hard topic, a very difficult one."
Yet he said that Russia supports the U.S. effort if it can result in Afghanistan emerging from extreme poverty and dysfunction to have "effective state and a modern economy."
"This is the path to guarantee that the gravest scenarios of the last time will not repeat," he said.
Obama said the two had also agreed to coordinate on humanitarian aid for Kyrgyzstan, wracked by turmoil in the wake of the president's ouster. Kyrgyzstan's president was driven from power in April amid corruption allegations, sparking violence that has left about 2,000 people dead and 400,000 ethnic Uzbeks homeless.