Medvedev and Obama meeting

Left to right: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and USA President Barack Obama.

Earlier this week two “lame duck” presidents met at the APEC meetings in Honolulu, one having announced that he will not run for re-election and the other just blind to the obvious. No matter how one feels about the former junior Senator from Illinois, at least he brought a chuckle to everyone in attendance by welcoming Russian President Dmitry Medvedev “to my birthplace, Honolulu, Hawaii.” Even Medvedev (who understands English) chuckled.

When the former junior Senator continued by joking that, “My understanding is that he’s (Medvedev) been spotted in a Hawaiian shirt walking and enjoying the good weather” it got a few smiles but not the same laughter as the birthplace comment. Mr. Medvedev was careful in further references to Hawaii, calling it Mr. Obama’s “home state” but he stopped short of addressing Hawaii as the birthplace of his counterpart.

Russian and American presidents with their staffs work in Honolulu.

Giving credit where credit is due, at least USA President Obama can pronounce Mr. Medvedev’s name correctly. That puts Obama in a league above the likes of Larry King and a host of other CNN and MSNBC reporters who haven’t yet managed to master the name. In fact, it sometimes remains a challenge for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In making the announcement regarding the long anticipated WTO membership for Russia, Mr. Obama indicated that “the invitation has been extended to Russia to join the WTO, as a testament to the hard work of President Medvedev and his team. We believe this is going to be good for the United States, for the world, as well as for Russia, because it will provide increased opportunities for markets in which we can sell goods and products and services, as well as purchase good, products and services without some of the traditional barriers.” President Obama promised to work closely with Congress to bring to and end the Jackson-Vanik legislation which restricts USA trade with Russia.

Thanking his American counterpart, Mr. Medvedev expressed that “first and foremost, I would like to thank President Obama and his team for their active and interested support of the Russian Federation’s efforts to become a WTO member.”

The two men also discussed a range of other issues, including European missile defense and Iran’s nuclear programme.