Russia’s president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, on Friday called the New Start treaty “a cornerstone of security for the coming decades,” and spoke warmly of President Obama, saying that “under very difficult circumstances, he managed to make the Senate ratify this document.”
Mr. Medvedev said Mr. Obama “is a man who knows how to hear and to listen, a man not trapped by stereotypes, a man who lives up to this standard — he keeps his word.” He said he expects the thaw in relations between Russia and the United States to be a lasting one, despite midterm Congressional election gains by Republicans who are wary of Russia.
“There are people in America who are sympathetic to the ‘reset,’ ” he said. “There are others who shudder at the thought of it, and think all evil is concentrated in the Russian Federation. This is just democracy at work. Still, I think American society and its establishment will have enough tact and self-control to continue this path.”
Mr. Medvedev made the comments during a televised question-and-answer session with the heads of Russia’s three leading television stations.
The Russian Parliament, which was waiting for the treaty to be ratified by the Senate, held a first reading of a ratification bill on Friday. The bill will need to pass three readings by the Duma, the lower house of parliament, a process that will continue at least through the end of January. Though deputies may attach nonbinding amendments to the bill, approval is virtually assured.
“The treaty brings our relations with the United States to a fundamentally new qualitative level, to the level of equality, parity and a balance of interests,” Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei V. Lavrov, told deputies on Friday. A failure to ratify it, he said, would “deliver a serious blow to our reputation.”
Mr. Medvedev’s television appearance on Friday touched on many of the same topics as Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin’s televised “conversation” last week, though it was around one-third as long, about one hour and 40 minutes.
While Mr. Putin used the occasion to emphasize what he described as the urgent need to maintain order, Mr. Medvedev reprised his calls to modernize the state, saying Russians should believe in laws and institutions, not just “a good czar and force.”
Though stability was a worthy goal during the rocky years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mr. Medvedev said, that period is over.
“We cannot develop the nation through stability alone, we also need drive,” he said. “Drive is a desire to do something, to overcome oneself. If there are those in power who believe that they are fine, they should stay at Courchevel,” a French ski resort beloved by Russia’s moneyed — and frequently office-holding — elite.
Mr. Medvedev also endorsed the “vertical of power” forged by Mr. Putin. He said Russia “almost broke apart, among other reasons because of the egoism of regional leaders” before Mr. Putin abolished direct elections of governors in favor of handpicked Kremlin appointments in 2004.
“Not all democratic methods work well,” he said. “For the time being, it is necessary to maintain the unified administration of the state — the vertical.”
Mr. Medvedev announced with some pride that he had replaced one-third of Russia’s regional leaders since becoming president three years ago, saying he allots each leader two, or at most three, terms to prove his performance.
Though he was referring to regional governors, his words come against the backdrop of Russia’s central political intrigue: Whether Mr. Putin, a two-term president, will seek a return to the presidency in 2012, displacing Mr. Medvedev.
“People cannot work eternally,” Mr. Medvedev said. “Sometimes they should go have some rest, and give way to others.”
Photo: President Barack Obama and Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev, left, eat burgers as they make an unscheduled visit to Ray’s Hell Burger in Arlington, Va., Thursday, June 24, 2010.