The White House on Wednesday said Russian President Vladimir Putin would not attend a scheduled gathering at Camp David next week of top officials representing the Group of Eight leading industrial nations, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, May 8).
Efforts to organize a reconfigured Russian government Cabinet just days after the start of Putin's third term would preclude his attendance at the May 18-19 meeting in Maryland, he informed President Obama by telephone (see GSN, May 7). The conference was expected to bring the leaders together in a high-profile manner; Putin's anticipated role had prompted Obama officials to shift the event's planned location from Chicago, where it was to take place ahead of a broader gathering of leaders from NATO nations.
Envoys from the United States and elsewhere said the Russian president had communicated a lack of willingness to take part in the NATO talks, despite a precedent of top Russian officials doing so upon suggestion by the alliance. The Chicago meeting is expected to address plans for a hotly contested European antimissile framework; Moscow sees the planned system as a threat to strategic stability, and has sought a legally binding guarantee from NATO that U.S. missile interceptors slated for deployment in Europe would never target Russian ICBMs (Anne Gearan, Associated Press/Google News, May 9).
White House sources, though, on Wednesday said a desire to avoid highlighting Putin's absence at the NATO gathering had played no role in the G-8 event's relocation, the New York Times reported.
"[President Obama] supported moving the summit to Camp David because he preferred having a more relaxed atmosphere to facilitate a candid discussion among world leaders,” deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said (Cooper/Barry, New York Times, May 9).
Obama and Putin decided on Wednesday to confer on the sidelines of the Group of 20 nations meeting scheduled for June 18-19 in Los Cabos, Mexico, according to a White House press release.
Washington and Moscow would keep pursuing a "reset" in their ties, the U.S. and Russian leaders determined by telephone. The New START nuclear arms control treaty falls among the initiative's major accomplishments to date (see GSN, April 11).
“The two presidents reiterated their interest in the sustained high-level dialogue that has characterized the reset of relations, and the substantial progress of the last three years on issues like nuclear security and nonproliferation, Afghanistan, the [World Trade Organization], and increased trade and commercial ties,” the White House stated in comments reported by RIA Novosti.
“President Obama and President Putin noted with satisfaction the concrete achievements of the last three years and expressed their commitment to enhance bilateral cooperation on the basis of mutual strategic interests,” the released remarks add.
Obama "expressed his understanding" of the Russian leader's move not to attend the G-8 event, and "welcomed the participation of Russian Prime Minister (Dmitry) Medvedev" in Putin's place.”
Medvedev was both Putin's successor and predecessor as Russian president (RIA Novosti, May 10).