Posted: Sunday, June 17th 2012 at 7:28am
Summit lets Obama, Putin size up the competition
By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin will use their meeting Monday, the first since Putin returned to Russia's top job, to claim leverage in a mutually dependent but volatile relationship.
Obama needs Russia to help, or at least not hurt, U.S. foreign policy aims in the Mideast and Afghanistan. Putin needs the United States as a foil for his argument that Russia doesn't get its due as a great power.
Obama and Putin are set to meet on the sidelines of the Group of 20 economic gathering in Mexico that will otherwise focus largely on the European economic crisis. The summit, however, will provide a natural forum for sideline discussions of the crisis in Syria as well as diplomatic efforts to head off a confrontation with Iran.
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. Attacks on anti-government protesters in Syria and the threat of civil war in the Mideast nation pose the most immediate crisis.
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.
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.
Obama made a special project of Russia in his first term and arguably needs Moscow's help even more if he wins a second one. He is trying to avoid a distracting public spat with Russia during this election year, as suggested by an overheard remark to outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in March. Obama told Medvedev he would have more flexibility to answer Russian complaints about a U.S.-built missile defense shield in Europe after the November election.
For all Obama's talk of resetting the relationship with Russia, it remains a wary standoff.
Associated Categories: National News
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