As Putin Postpones Meeting Obama, Analysts Seek Political Import

New York Times

The first meeting between President Obama and President Vladimir V. Putin as the leaders of their respective countries was supposed to be an icebreaker, a moment for two outsize figures to put behind them some of the friction that surrounded the Russian elections two months ago.

But the announcement on Wednesday that Mr. Putin would skip the Group of 8 summit meeting of world leaders next week at Camp David – which Mr. Obama had promoted as an opportunity to “spend time” with Mr. Putin – bewildered foreign policy experts in both countries who have been waiting to see how the two leaders would get on.

During a telephone call on Thursday, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, assured Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that the cancellation was “not political,” a State Department official said. Other administration officials said they accepted Mr. Putin’s stated reason for canceling his trip – he told Mr. Obama that he had to finish setting up his new cabinet.

In fact, during a meeting last Friday in Moscow with Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, Thomas E. Donilon, which was supposed to set up the Camp David meeting, Mr. Putin had warned that he might have to send his prime minister (and the former president), Dmitri A. Medvedev, in his place, according to a senior administration official with knowledge of the meeting.

But was not Mr. Medvedev supposed to be the one in charge of setting up the cabinet, Mr. Donilon asked. Mr. Putin, the official said, replied that while the prime minister would make the initial appointments, it was he, as president, who had to approve them. Mr. Putin promised to call Mr. Obama on Tuesday or Wednesday with his decision. And on Wednesday, he did.

“Not that there aren’t big fights going on in Moscow, but that he can’t come to the G-8 because of that, I completely do not buy,” said Andrew Kuchins, director of the Russia and Eurasia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “It’s really bizarre. Oh, so the prime minister, who actually runs the cabinet, he can go to the G-8, but Putin can’t?”

American and Russian officials said the two men would meet in Mexico next month at the Group of 20 meeting.

Irritants remain in relations between the countries, including the deployment of a missile-defense system that Russia considers a threat, and Russia’s defense of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. The abrupt change of plans, however, comes as American and Russian officials appeared to be signaling that they were prepared for relations to get back to normal, after the strident anti-American talk that characterized Mr. Putin’s campaign.

Mr. Obama waited several days to call and congratulate him, a delay that one White House official attributed to scheduling conflicts. “It was a great call when it took place,” the official said Thursday.

In Moscow, Kremlin watchers suggested that Mr. Putin’s decision reflected frustration over other irritants, including statements from the State Department about the protests that greeted Mr. Putin’s inauguration.

Another sore point is pending legislation in Congress that seeks to punish Russian officials linked to human rights abuses. That has complicated the administration’s efforts to repeal a cold-war-era law, known as Jackson-Vanik, which imposed trade sanctions because the Soviet Union restricted the emigration of Jews. Since the Soviet Union collapsed, successive administrations have simply waived the sanctions, but with Russia expected to join the World Trade Organization this summer, American companies could face higher tariffs because of the law.

The Obama administration, like those before it, has tried to persuade Congress to repeal it, but dozens of lawmakers have linked its repeal to the new legislation, named after Sergei L. Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who was arrested and died in prison after trying to expose tax fraud by government officials. The legislation would deny visas to officials accused of abuse, in Russia and elsewhere, and freeze their assets in the United States. The administration has opposed those provisions as an intrusion on the ability of executive and consular authorities to conduct foreign affairs.

Russian officials say they were led to believe that the administration would fight hard against the Magnitsky bill, and complain that it has not done enough. The administration backs the idea behind the bill, but is pushing hard to remove the provisions that most upset the Russians. The administration supports repealing the Jackson-Vanik law, because it could hurt American companies. A vote on both proposals is expected this year.

Dimitri K. Simes, a Russia expert who recently met officials in Moscow, said Mr. Putin’s inner circle believed that Russia had not benefited much from Mr. Obama’s “reset” policy and wanted to demonstrate that the tone of the relationship would change.

“Putin’s camp feels quite strongly that Russia was taken for a ride, and that Medvedev was a bit naïve in his handling of the Obama administration,” said Mr. Simes, president of the Center for the National Interest. “Putin is not talking about Obama in the same way that Medvedev was, and Putin is not using the term ‘reset.’ If he is not using it, he is not using it for a reason.”

But at a Senate hearing on Thursday, Philip H. Gordon, the assistant secretary of state for European affairs, cited a series of agreements that Washington negotiated with Mr. Putin as president or prime minister and suggested that his return to the presidency did not augur a significant retreat from cooperation.

Referring to Mr. Medvedev’s new role as prime minister, Mr. Gordon added, “There’s no reason to believe that even with those two gentlemen in different jobs, we won’t be successful in continuing to reach practical areas of agreement when they’re mutual.”

Helene Cooper and Steven Lee Myers reported from Washington, and Ellen Barry from Moscow. unshaven girl hairy girl https://zp-pdl.com/online-payday-loans-in-america.php https://zp-pdl.com/get-a-next-business-day-payday-loan.php payday loan

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