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Putin's invite to Obama: a formality or a good omen?

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"Now the elections are over, and [Putin and Obama] can move on to the next stage," says Sergei Markov, vice rector of the Plekhanov Economic University in Moscow and a frequent Putin adviser in the past.

"Putin views Obama soberly, and sees him as a man who keeps his promises. Obama realizes that Putin has very strong capacities of leadership; in other words, he's a man who can make deals," Mr. Markov adds. "The bad period in our relationship is over, and there are objectively very good possibilities for a new beginning."

Obama came into office nearly four years ago pledging to "reset" the US-Russia relationship after several years of deepening chill under George W. Bush. The consensus in Russia is that he succeeded. Within a year the two sides signed the first full-scale nuclear arms reduction treaty since the cold war, New START, and also established a raft of bilateral government commissions – the sort of forum Russian bureaucrats adore – to discuss issues of mutual concern. Earlier this year, Russia agreed to give the United States routine access to a major central Russian air base to assist in efforts to resupply embattled NATO forces in Afghanistan.

"The current US president is someone you can do business with; he is a man who listens to other people’s arguments, knows how to communicate and can take decisions. We do not always agree, but if he adopted decisions he ultimately implemented them," Medvedev, now prime minister, told Finnish journalists Tuesday.

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