In Singapore last month, the President Obama’s Senior Director for Russia, Mike McFaul, announced that the U.S. and Russia would not be able to conclude an agreement on the a follow-on to the START nuclear warhead treaty before Saturday, Dec. 5, when it is set to expire. “We have a bridging agreement that we also are working with the Russians,” McFaul said. “I fully suspect we’ll be able to get that in place by December 5th.”
So on Friday morning, with just hours to go before the treaty expired, President Obama spoke by phone with President Dimitri Medvedev. In a morning gaggle, Obama Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that negotiators would continue to work for another 24 hours, but that the continuation agreement–“outlining that what is in place now will continue”–would be put in place if those negotiations failed.
As it happened, as Gibbs spoke, the Russian press was already reporting a “joint statement” from Obama and Medvedev describing the continuation agreement. “I guess they are a little ahead of the curve,” Gibbs joked, when told about the statement.