Medvedev-Obama: The Cheeseburger Summit

Ariel Cohen /

Following months of intense diplomacy between the United States and Russia focusing on “resetting” bilateral relations, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev visited the United States for two days. The tour included stops in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Stanford University, and a Washington, D. C summit with President Obama.

In trying to move the focus of US-Russian ties beyond security and geopolitical issues such as arms control and Iran, the trip was intended to take the relationship to the next level—greater economic engagement. It was also intended to show the smiling face of Russia for the U.S. Senate, which will soon consider ratification of the New START strategic nuclear treaty, signed by both Presidents in April.

Overall, the summit was arguably mostly about optics and perceptions—intended to trumpet success and make both leaders look good. This was exemplified when both leaders took a limo to Ray’s Hell Burger in Arlington, Virginia. The two ate cheeseburgers and even shared a plate of fries, eating amongst the regular crowd.

While this event created a feel-good atmosphere, it was misleading. Why? No matter how delicious were burgers and fries, this exercise will not resolve the imbalances and strategic rivalries that Obama is creating in the U.S. relationship with Russia. (more…)