The White House insisted Thursday it was not disappointed that Russian President Vladimir Putin will skip the G8 summit and talks with President Barack Obama next week.
The Russian leader, returned as president after a four year break Monday, and was expected to have a first chance to meet on a president-to-president level with Obama at the Camp David summit in Maryland.
But Putin said in a phone call with Obama Wednesday that he would not be able to attend as he was tied up with picking his cabinet and would send ex-president and current Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev instead.
“No we are not disappointed,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Obama’s presidential aircraft.
“It is something we understood and understand,” he said, noting that Putin and Obama had already agreed to meet “in not much time at all” at the G20 summit in Mexico in June.
Carney also dismissed the idea that Putin had decided not to come because it is doubtful Obama will travel to the APEC summit in Vladivostock, Russia in September as it takes place less than two months before the US election.
Putin told Obama in a telephone call he “unfortunately cannot take part in the May 18-19 G8 summit as on those days the formation of the Russian government will — evidently — still not be completed,” the Kremlin said.
“The American side received this information with understanding,” it added.
Putin’s visit to the United States was to come at a prickly time in ties with Washington, which is pressing ahead with a European missile shield despite Russian complaints and has also slammed Russia’s treatment of protestors.
[Russian President Vladimir Putin, pictured in Red Square in Moscow on May 9. AFP Photo/Vladimir Rodionov]