Chicago summit cancelled: NATO and Russia take a pause
The NATO Secretary General Anders Fog Rasmussen announced on Thursday that the Chicago Russia-NATO summit in May is cancelled. Of course this is not a sign of crisis, like the one experienced after the Russian-Georgian conflict. It is clear, however, that the interested parties need a pause to reconsider the new reality, especially concerning the Russian-US debate on the issue of ABM, and principal difference in the approaches to the crises in the Middle East.
"I have personally discussed that matter with Russian President-elect Putin, and we agreed that the Russian busy internal political calendar makes it difficult to hold the NATO-Russia summit in Chicago in time", - Rasmussen told the RIA Novosti news agency. "Besides, I can confirm that next month our Ministers of foreign Affairs will meet, and it proves that we are all committed to dialogue and practical cooperation. And it will continue before and after Chicago, because we plan our relations with Russia not only for one day or one meeting; we are talking about a long-term cooperation", - The NATO Secretary General emphasized.
In his turn, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov confirmed that the preparation for the summit in Chicago has not started yet.
It was at the end of last year that the problem of Putin's participation in the Chicago summit was raised for the first time by Dmitry Rogozin, at that time the Russian Ambassador to NATO. He made it clear that the deadlock situation in the Russian-American summit talks on the ABM makes the future Russian President’s participation in them questionable, because there is nothing to discuss. Later many high-ranking Russian diplomats have publicly repeated the same position, and this year Anders Rasmussen has made similar statements, too.
Moreover, the ABM crisis goes hand in hand with Moscow’ active opposition to the NATO policy in the Middle East. This includes the negative evaluation of operations in Libya, and blocking attempts to organize an intervention in Syria, and the fundamental difference in the approach to the Iranian problem. In addition to this Moscow has recently expressed discontent with the NATO's presence in Afghanistan after 2014 without a UN mandate.
Such a harsh confrontation between Russia and the United States on the issues of NATO and the UN, has allowed many observers to surmise, that the "reboot" as one of the elements of Obama’s new foreign policy has not justified itself, and a new positive program of relations between Russia and the West is needed. And such a program does not exist yet.
On the other hand, Rasmussen’s statement about Russia’s "very busy internal political calendar " looks sly only at the first glance. In recent years, the newly elected President was not at all popular in Washington. Let us recall that in 2008 Hillary Clinton, at that time the US presidential candidate, stated that she believesPresident Putin has no soul. And there have been ther memorable quotations and estimates made in the US since then.
In its turn, Moscow is clearly irritated by the US position regarding parliamentary and presidential elections in Russia. That’s how Putin estimated the role of the USA in the protest movement in Russia: "I looked at the first reaction of our American colleagues. The Secretary of state said that the elections (to the State Duma) were dishonest and unfair, although she had not even received any documents from the observers of the ODIHR. She gave the signal to some of our “activists” inside the country. They heard this signal and started an active work with the support of the US Department of State."
However, after a telephone conversation on the occasion of Vladimir Putin’s victory at the presidential elections in Russia on March 4, Putin and Obama noted that pre-election rhetoric both in Russia and in the US should not affect the bilateral relations. It is obvious that now, after Putin's victory, Washington and its allies need time to evaluate the new course of the Russian leadership. But Moscow is also interested in the Western reaction to the new political conformation in Russia.
In short, Putin has reasons not to go to Chicago, and NATO, in its turn, has reasons to take a pause in the dialogue with Russia.
However the pause is not going to be very long. Before the NATO summit, which will be attended by delegations from different countries and with different views on the relations with Russia, and on international security as a whole, a meeting of the Group of Eight will be held in Camp David. And the countdown of the new phase of relations may well begin in this quiet and cosy residence of the US presidents. As they say, it will be a “synchronization of watches” with a particular emphasis on the hour hand.