Russian President Vladimir Putin has informed the White House that he will not be coming to the United States for next week's G-8 summit at Camp David.
Putin will instead send Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to the meeting. Putin and Medvedev completed their job swap on Tuesday when the Russian parliament confirmed Medvedev to return to the position he held last time Putin was president. Putin was also sworn in as President on Tuesday and President Barack Obama called him Wednesday to congratulate him on his return to the top job in the Russian Federation.
A senior administration official told The Cable that Putin's ongoing formation of the new Russian government was the main reason he will not be coming to the United States.
"Putin will not attend the G-8," the official told The Cable. "He has to finalize the cabinet in the new Russian government. However he will meet with the president on the margins of the G-20 summit in mid-June."
Also, the domestic optics would bad for Putin if he goes to the United States as his first overseas trip as president. Putin criticized the U.S. government throughout the campaign and accused Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of fomenting unrest inside Russia during the election campaign.
For the administration, Putin's absence cuts both ways. Medvedev is seen in Washington as more amenable to working with the U.S. government than Putin and has good relationships with Obama administration officials. But Putin's decision to not attend delays what would have been his first meeting with Obama as president and removes a chance for the two leaders to promote an image of cooperation in the wake of tensions between Washington and Moscow that surrounded the Russian elections.
Russia, which is not a NATO member but has attended past summits, is also sitting out the NATO summit in Chicago on May 20-21, also due to the timing of the event, according to Obama administration officials.
National Security Advisor Tom Donilon traveled to Moscow and met with Putin last week.
John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.