Obama and Medvedev Talk Chicken

As the heads of two countries that sat for decades in a high-stakes game of chicken, Thursday’s meeting between President Obama and Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev came down to just that: poultry products.

Russia was once the biggest importer of U.S. chicken, but after Moscow altered health codes in January to regulate how much chlorine could be used to disinfect chicken in transit, the United States was nearly squeezed out of the market—to the tune of an 84 percent drop. But in the pair’s East Room press conference, Obama announced that the U.S. would change its disinfecting agent to pass muster with Russian inspectors. “We have reached an agreement that will allow the United States to begin exporting our poultry products to Russia once again,” Obama said, which brought snickers from the Russian press corps that was clearly more up to speed on the chicken issues than their American counterparts.

It was an unexpected stray from the pair’s list of important issues, including Iran sanctions, nuclear non-proliferation and a review of the START treaty the two signed earlier this year in Prague. Medvedev was also expected to press Obama on getting Russia into the elite World Trade Organization, which Obama agreed was important.

Yet for a visit—like most visits from heads of state—that would normally contain sweeping rhetoric without much to show, the chicken agreement had the greatest potential to make news, and label the visit a success. Indeed, immediately after the announcement, the shares of the nation’s top poultry companies had increased an average of two percent. Not only did it allow Obama to deliver for American poultry farmers, but it allowed Medvedev to return to the Kremlin promising a chicken in every pot. (Although, somewhat strangely, Russian importers primary buy only the “leg-quarter portion of the chicken,” according to Reuters.

Still, even though the pair could talk the talk, they fell short when it came time to actually do the walk. For lunch, Obama took Medvedev out to his favorite lunch joint in Arlington. For burgers.