By Li Hongmei, Sepcial to Sina English
U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet Monday at the sidelines of Mexico G-20 summit, the first since Putin returned to Russia's top job, to claim leverage in a mutually dependent but volatile relationship.
“Russian President Vladimir Putin and his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama will on June 18 discuss projected deployment of missile shield in Europe, prospects of peace settlement in Syria and bilateral ties at the sidelines of G20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico,” Russian Presidential Aide Yury Ushakov said.
The G20 summit will be held on June 18-19. Obama and Putin will meet ahead of it. Following the negotiations, the presidents will issue a joint statement, which will enshrine the partners’ will to develop diplomatic ties and expand trade contacts.
Things got off to a rocky start this spring, when Obama pointedly withheld a customary congratulatory phone call to Putin until days after his election. Putin appeared to snub Obama by skipping the smaller and weightier Group of Eight meeting that Obama hosted last month at Camp David.
Still, Obama needs Russia to help, or at least not hurt, U.S. foreign policy aims in the Mideast and Afghanistan. Even though Obama holds far greater power, Putin can be a spoiler and irritant to his administration.
“The missile defense issue will be discussed; the U.S. has already warned us about this. This is quite normal, as the issue is sensitive,” said the Russian Presidential Aide .
Peace settlement in conflict-torn Syria will also be negotiated, he continued. The aide emphasized that Russia and the United States do not have strong disagreements on this issue. “We want that peace finally comes to Syria and its residents get the possibility to democratically choose their future.”
“Russia is consistently pushing for all-inclusive dialogue in Syria…Forceful meddling into this process from the outside is unacceptable,” he added.
The meeting is expected to last about 1.5 hours.
Russia is a linchpin in several U.S. foreign policy goals. Chief among them are the international effort to deny Iran a nuclear weapon and a smooth shutdown of the Afghanistan war. Brutal bloodshed in Syria and the threat of civil war in the Mideast nation pose the most immediate crisis. In the longer term, Obama wants Russia's continued cooperation in nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation.
Russia's membership in numerous world bodies and its veto power at the U.N. Security Council give it leverage beyond its economic or military power.
Obama holds far greater power and both leaders know it. But Putin can be a spoiler and irritant to the administration.
The Obama-Putin meeting also comes the same day as Moscow hosts an international negotiating session with Iran. Russia has gone along with U.N. Security Council efforts to tighten some penalties against Iran because of questions about its nuclear weapons ambitions, but has blocked the harshest punishments.
However, Iran usually paints the dispute over its nuclear program as a confrontation with the U.S. and its ally Israel.
The Pew Research Center's newly released global public opinion survey gives Putin job approval ratings Obama can only dream of. About 72 percent of Russians have a favorable opinion of Putin, and a majority put more faith in a strong leader than in a democratic form of government. Nearly three-quarters of those polled said Russia deserves greater respect from other countries.
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