(dpa) - Outgoing President Vladimir Putin's successor Dmitri Medvedev met for the first time with top US officials on Monday for talks over disputed US plans for missile defence bases in Europe, news agency Interfax reported.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defence Secretary Robert Gates arrived in Moscow for two-day meetings with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defence Minister Anatoli Serdyukov on strategic cooperation and security issues.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said a key era arms control treaty that is expiring, containment of Iran's nuclear programme and Kosovo's recent declaration of independence were on the agenda.
Both sides had optimistic words Monday. Medvedev said the discussions would bring the two countries' positions closer and ensure continuity.
Gates, his arm in a sling from breaking an arm when he slipped on ice in mid-February, joked about the US side's flexibility, saying, "with a broken arm, I won't be nearly as difficult a negotiator."
But analysts Monday saw the comments as a repeat of empty rhetoric preceding the first round of strategic negotiations in October that ended without compromise.
The Rice and Gates visit, they said, was about sussing out president-elect Medvedev, who opened talks at the Kremlin before handing over to Putin.
Rice congratulated Medvedev on his victory, and said she hoped for "a continuation of the good workings of the longstanding Russian- American relationship."
Medvedev, who won by a landslide in March 2 elections, has promised to follow Putin's course and appoint him prime minister, stumping any conjecture about possible policy differences and his independence.
Ties between Washington and Moscow have come to a head over US plans to deploy a missile-defence system in Poland and the Czech Republic in increasing tensions over conflicting international security views, reminiscent of the Cold War clashes over the US policy of containment.
The US says it wants to base the system in Eastern Europe by 2013 to protect against Iran's growing ballistic missile capability. But Russia believes the system would threaten its nuclear deterrent and has warned it could target the Polish and Czech sites.
US President George W Bush and Putin, who settled on the meetings in a telephone call last week, are expected to face off over the countries' differing perceptions of NATO at a summit for the organizations on April 2 in Bucharest.