Putin snubs Obama, will miss G8 summit

Russian President Vladimir Putin won't be attending next weekend's G8 summit, the White House announced Wednesday evening.

Putin, who was sworn in on Monday, broke the news to the American president during a phone call commemorating the end of World War 2 in Europe. He said Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev will go in his stead.

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“Noting his responsibilities to finalize Cabinet appointments in the new Russian government, President Putin expressed his regret that he would be unable to attend the G8 Summit at Camp David on May 18-19,” the White House said in a statement. “President Obama expressed his understanding of President Putin’s decision and welcomed the participation of Russian Prime Minister Medvedev at the G8 Summit.”

Newly elected French President Francois Hollande by contrast is slated to attend, even though he will be inaugurated May 15 – just three days before the start of the summit.

Obama and Putin agreed to hold a bilateral meeting on the margins of the G20 Summit in Mexico next month, the White House said.

The two nations have sought to “reset” their relationship under Obama, notably with the passage of the new START Treaty on nuclear disarmament. Relations remain frosty on a number of issues, however, including Russia's opposition to UN sanctions against Syria and U.S. missile-defense plans for eastern and central Europe; last week, Russian defense official  Nikolai Makarov warned that Russia would use pre-emptive force if the United States goes forward with its plans to deploy elements of a missile defense shield in Poland by 2018.

Here is the full White House read-out of the call:

In their May 9 telephone conversation, President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin commemorated the occasion of Russia’s celebration of Victory in Europe day, noting the historic war-time alliance between our two countries and underscoring their mutual commitment to strengthening the U.S.-Russian partnership. President Obama and President Putin noted with satisfaction the concrete achievements of the last three years and expressed their commitment to enhance bilateral cooperation on the basis of mutual strategic interests.   


Noting his responsibilities to finalize Cabinet appointments in the new Russian government, President Putin expressed his regret that he would be unable to attend the G8 Summit at Camp David on May 18-19.  President Obama expressed his understanding of President Putin’s decision and welcomed the participation of Russian Prime Minister Medvedev at the G8 Summit.  

President Obama and President Putin agreed to hold a bilateral meeting on the margins of the June 18-19, G20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico.  The two Presidents reiterated their interest in the sustained high-level dialogue that has characterized the re-set of relations, and the substantial progress of the last three years on issues like nuclear security and non-proliferation, Afghanistan, the WTO, and increased trade and commercial ties.

Correction: The G8 Summit, initially slated to take place in Chicago, has since been moved to Camp David.