Medvedev in Washington: A test of the reset

© RIA Novosti . Vladimir Rodionov / Go to the photo bankRussian President Dmitry Medvedev
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev - Sputnik International
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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will arrive in the U.S. late on June 22 (early June 23 Moscow time).

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will arrive in the U.S. late on June 22 (early June 23 Moscow time). Medvedev's itinerary is unusual. His trip will begin in California's Silicon Valley, and his meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington is scheduled for June 24.

Medvedev's visit to Washington is the latest attempt to push the famous reset button - a process that requires a few preliminary steps. During their meeting in Washington, Medvedev and Obama are sure to discuss strategic offensive arms, sanctions against Iran, the situation in the Middle East, and the upcoming G8 and G20 summits in Canada. But the focus of the meeting will be on resetting the economic relationship between the U.S. and Russia.

Medvedev is sending a message by starting his trip in California - a state known for its high-tech and venture capital companies, concentrated in Silicon Valley. It is a message that is meant to resonate with Russia's plans for economic modernization.

The Russian president and a delegation from Russia's leading high-tech and information companies, including the news agency RIA Novosti, will meet with representatives of Twitter, Apple, Yandex, Google, Cisco Systems and many other companies, as well as with executives from Intel, Boeing and Microsoft.

The Skolkovo high-tech hub near Moscow will be a modified version of Silicon Valley, adapted to meet Russia's needs and character. Skolkovo's trustees include Cisco, one of the world's leaders in network technology. The Russian delegation hopes to convince Google, Microsoft, Intel, Boeing and other high-tech and industrial giants in the U.S. to join the project.

Medvedev's other mission is to gauge how serious the Obama administration is about resetting relations with Russia. Does the reset extend to the U.S.-Russia economic relationship?

Standing in the way of a comprehensive reset is a Cold War anachronism, the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which continues to exclude Russia from most favored nation status because Soviet authorities refused to allow Jews to emigrate.

In 1994, the United States acknowledged that the new Russia complies with all the amendment's requirements: Russian citizens were free to emigrate and the country was transitioning to a market economy. Every six months, a U.S. president promises Russia that Congress will repeal the amendment, and yet it continues to restrict investment and scare off American companies. The amendment is still useful for pressuring and even blackmailing businesses, a common practice in U.S. politics.

All Jewish organizations in the United States support the repeal of Jackson-Vanik, which was originally passed to help Soviet Jews emigrate. Later the amendment was supplemented by human rights requirements that were used to extract foreign policy concessions from Russia.

Additional terms were added to the amendment over the years, which had little to do with its original purpose. It has become a bit of a political football. What's worse, the rules of the game change arbitrarily.

Obama has been tight-lipped when it comes to a repeal of the Jackson-Vanik amendment. The situation at home is not good and there is intense opposition to Obama's policies, from strategic arms reductions to healthcare reform. No wonder he is unwilling to rock the boat for the sake of repealing Jackson-Vanik.

China shows the benefits of life without Jackson-Vanik. U.S. trade with China has been growing at an unprecedented pace since 2000, when Congress voted to remove China from the list of countries covered by the amendment. U.S. exports to China reached $70 billion by 2008, and it imported twice that amount from China. For comparison, U.S. exports to Russia total $9.3 billion.

Russia currently ranks 28th on the list of the United States' trading partners, while the United States is Russia's eighth largest trading partner. This is unacceptable given the potential that exists between the United States and Russia.

If Medvedev manages to at least get the issue on the table, his visit will be a huge success and proof that the reset is genuine.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Andrei Fedyashin) 

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