Russia Stays Home

MADRID – Just three days before his return to the Kremlin as Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin met behind closed doors at his residence in Novo-Ogaryovo, outside Moscow, with US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, who was there to transmit President Barack Obama’s renewed determination to strengthen cooperation with Russia. But Donilon returned home empty-handed: Putin will attend neither the G-8 summit on May 18-19 at Camp David, nor the NATO summit in Chicago on May 20-21, despite Obama’s effort to accommodate Russia by moving the G-8 summit from Chicago.

As a result, what would have been the first meeting between Obama and Putin after his return to the Russian presidency has been postponed until the G-20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, set for June 18-19. This delay has provoked much speculation.

Some point as a cause of Putin’s absence to recent tensions between Russia and the United States arising from Putin’s increasingly harsh response to the protests by his opponents at home. Others suggest that Putin’s aloofness stems from Kremlin infighting.

Whatever may be driving Putin’s behavior, this month’s two summits will affect relations between the two countries considerably, given the global security issues to be discussed by the G-8 and the need to arrange for Russia’s participation in NATO’s anti-missile shield.