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    Putin-Bush meeting may mend rift in relations - expert

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    A leading Russian expert on North America said Wednesday that a U.S.-Russian presidential meeting due later this week could help the two countries overcome their differences on issues such as Iran and North Korea.

    MOSCOW, July 12 (RIA Novosti) - A leading Russian expert on North America said Wednesday that a U.S.-Russian presidential meeting due later this week could help the two countries overcome their differences on issues such as Iran and North Korea.

    Sergei Rogov, director of the Russian Academy of Sciences' U.S. and Canada Institute, said that during their bilateral meeting in St. Petersburg on the eve of this weekend's Group of Eight summit, Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush would likely seek rapprochement on Iran's and North Korea's nuclear ambitions as well as on START, a U.S.-Russian strategic arms reductions treaty.

    "Most probably, [discussions] will deal with treaty clauses related to verification and checks," he said, adding that both leaders agree the accord, which will expire in 2009, needs extending.

    "A rapprochement between Russia and the U.S. is also possible on some controversial issues of nuclear proliferation, primarily concerning the situation in North Korea and Iran. Russia and the U.S., both involved in six-party talks over North Korea and Iran, have an additional incentive to reach agreement."

    "The [Putin-Bush] meeting will hopefully not be a formal one," Rogov said. "I hope it will help stabilize the situation, preventing [the two nations] from sliding into confrontation, and will produce a number of concrete initiatives enabling positive changes in Russian-American relations."

    Rogov admitted that economic agreements will be harder to reach, but some specific decisions on nuclear energy issues could nonetheless be made.

    "One should bear in mind that results cannot be achieved overnight, and that a key stabilizing factor in U.S.-Russian relations - economic interdependency - will take a few years to emerge," he said.

    At the moment, U.S.-Russian relations depend largely on the personal relationship between Putin and Bush, Rogov said.

    "It is nice that the two presidents trust each other, but this is not enough for building lasting, long-term relations [between the nations]," he added.

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