Putin and Bush will get a sense of lobsters' soul
1-2 July, the RF President Vladimir Putin is to discuss Russian-American problems with George Bush in an informal atmosphere in Bush’s father vacation house in Kennebunkport, Maine on the Atlantic coast. The main issues of the negotiations are establishment of the US system of antimissile defence in Central Europe, the status of the Serbian province Kosovo, situation with human rights and democracy in Russia. Putin is to arrive in Sunday and stay at Bush’s less than 24 hours. The meeting is supposed to be informal, there won’t be any communiquйs, joint statements, major initiatives, both presidents hope to reach compromise or at least mildly disagree, as the Associated Press reports.
The meeting, already designated as “Sandwich and Lobster Summit”, is designed not to solve anything, but to allay tensions between Russia and America and to set tone of future negotiations.
Putin’s aide Sergei Prikhodko said that the Russian part is bent to interested but not easy conversation. Moscow is anxious of increasing “groundless criticism” of the situation with democracy in Russia, so this will be certainly discussed.
Lately Bush who always avoided criticising Russia said several times that it refused from the promising democratic course of development.
As Prikhodko said, the next issue is Russian-American relationship on the threshold of presidential elections due to the next year. Moscow insists that relations between the two countries should not become “a hostage” of the election race.
Just forthcoming presidential elections restrict possibilities for reaching a compromise, said the Deputy Director General of the Center of Political Technologies Alexei Makarkin to polit.ru. According to him, at the moment there are all conditions for toughening rhetoric. “In the USA presidential contenders are determined, in Russia problem of the successor is also of current importance. In both countries harsh criticism of rivals is in great demand. Our authorities are to manifest patriotism, and in America democrats are criticising republicans for meeting Russia halfway” - said the expert.
Another sensitive issue is US plans to establish elements of their antimissile system in West Europe. Putin intends to appeal the US president to determine mutual menaces and struggle together against them but not to take one-sided measures.
It should be reminded that the USA has recently rejected Russia’s proposal of joint use of the Gabala Radar System in Azerbaijan instead of establishing the antimissile system in Europe. The Pentagon chief Robert Gates said that the Gabala Radar could not be a proper substitute of the one in Europe, so the USA doesn’t intend to refuse from its projects. Henry Obering, director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency considers that mutual use of the Gabalin Radar can’t prevent the threat from the direction of Iran.
According to Prikhodko, Russia is about to hold a serious conversation about Kosovo. “Our goal is to seize still remaining chance to resume negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina on a balanced ground, to reach such a compromise that will be approved by the Security Council and won’t establish negative precedents in different region of the world” - he said.
The other day Russia declined a new, already third, project of resolution on Kosovo submitted to the UN Security Council by the USA and the EU. The document designated as a compromise proposes to postpone a decision on the status of the region for 4 moths, for Kosovo Albanians and leaders of Serbia could hold additional negotiations. The Russian side does not like that if the negotiations fail, there will be executed a plan of Martti Ahtisaari, that supposes an automatically recognition of the independence of Kosovo under international control.
The problem of Kosovo is less emotional than one of the antimissile defense, - reckons Alexei Makarkin, - “nevertheless the positions of the two countries are diametrically opposite: the USA supports the plan of Martti Ahtisaari, but Russia considers it inadmissible. But this problem still can be discussed without “negative” passions, - the expert said.
The other two issues that presidents are to discuss are a hair-trigger situation in Palestine and regional aspects of the non-proliferation, including Iranian and North-Korean ones. But there must not be any serious discord on these issues.
It is interesting that among topics supposed to be discussed in Kennebunkport there are no economic subject matters. Some experts are inclined to explain this with such a deplorable fact that for the West Russia is a politics but never an economy, though at present over 800 American companies are doing business in Russia.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former United States National Security Advisor to the President reckons that even through there are some “breaks” during the negotiations, they will be of theatrical nature. In an interview to the Russian business daily Kommersant, Brzezinski said that such problems as the US plans on siting parts of its anti-missile defense system in Europe, or Russian’s proposal on join use of the Gabala radar system demand “mutual flexibility, continuous widening of the field of interaction, patience in aspects where conflict of interest exist.”
“I don’t think that the short meeting in an informal atmosphere in Kennebunkport will afford an opportunity for discussing serious political and strategical topisc” – he said.
It will be one of the most intense visits as the sides have absolutely opposite approaches to the problem of the antimissile defense, reckons Alexei Makarkin. To his opinion, just the problems of the antimissile defense and Gabala Radar will be the main subject matters of the meeting. “In this situation the USA must react somehow. But if Russia contends that the Azerbaijan variant is a proper substitution for the Esat European one, the USA are ready to accept it only in addition. It is quite doubtful that these discords could be surmounted.” – The expert said to Polit.ru. The USA undertook obligations and if they accept Russia’s conditions they will backtrack on their promises given to their NATO allies.” – explained Makarkin.
“Certainly, such meeting are important and useful for supporting a constant dialogue, effort of reaching the compromise, but the path of opportunities is still narrow, so the real chance for effective interaction will appear only after the elections” – said the expert.