The first Putin's visit will be in Minsk
Moscow decided to at least partially neutralize the negative effects of Putin's refusal to participate in the G8 summit at Camp David. As it became known, the senior Russian Foreign Ministry representative will attend the special meeting on Afghanistan, to be part of the upcoming NATO Summit in Chicago, although until recently in Moscow they didn't rush to accept NATO's invitation. Declined from the trip to the United States, Russian President will visit Belarus at first.
As Kommersant daily has learnt from informed diplomatic sources, Russia will be presented at the NATO summit to be held on May 20-21. Recently, it was decided to send in Chicago "the High Representative of the Russian Federation". Sources who are familiar with the negotiations, argue, the most likely, the head of the second Asian Department Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Special Presidential Envoy for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov will fly to the summit. It was impossible to contact him promptly yesterday.
It was assumed, during the NATO summit held in Chicago, the meeting Russia-NATO Council will be held as well. However, it failed. Officially - because of the tight schedule of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In the opinion of most politicians and experts - because of the conflict between Moscow and Washington on the missile defense.
When it became clear, that Russian President will not come to meet with NATO members, Russia was invited to participate in a special meeting on Afghanistan to be held there, in Chicago, under the NATO summit. It was planned, only the representatives of NATO countries and other members of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) - NATO-led forces in Afghanistan will take part there. However, during the April meeting of the NATO-Russia Council at the level of foreign ministers of NATO, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has personally invited Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to this closed event.
However, in Moscow they didn't rush to accept the invitation. Sergei Lavrov has publicly questioned the usefulness of the participation of the Russian delegation at the Chicago meeting on Afghanistan. The minister reminded, that Moscow already for five or six years has being unsuccessfully asked NATO to allow it to participate in regular meetings of ISAF troop-contributing countries, which take place in Brussels. "We do not supply the contingent in this force structure, but offer the possibility of transit", the Minister explained. "And we believe that our contribution to these forces is at least not less than the contribution of the countries that sent two officers to Afghanistan to work in the headquarters and on this basis are eligible to participate in the meetings of troop-contributing countries. It's unfair".
Sergey Lavrov said, that having received an invitation to come to Chicago, he asked the Secretary General of NATO: Does this mean that Russia to be called in Brussels? "It turned out, this is only a one-time invitation", complained to the head of Russian diplomacy, however promising to think about the invitation. However, his undisguised skepticism was widely seen as a sure sign that Russia will refuse to go to Chicago for Afghan meeting.
Nevertheless, Moscow has decided to accept the invitation and take part in the NATO summit. After Vladimir Putin's refusal to go to G8 meeting it is likely to be perceived in the West as Russia's desire to sweeten the bitter pill in its relations with the United States, for which the Kremlin's decision came as a shock.
However, the source of Kommersant in the Russian Foreign Ministry believes, the breakthrough of the Afghan meeting in Chicago should not be expected. "There will be representatives from over 50 countries, the event is to last no more than two or three hours. That is, everyone will have only two or three minutes to speak, the time for debates in general may not be enough", said the source of Kommersant. Another source in Russian diplomatic circles said, "the format of the Afghan meeting - it is somewhat as an ostentatious celebration, designed to show the American voters and the world that Barack Obama, unlike George Bush, is able to resolve the Afghan problem".
President of the United States now meet with his Russian counterpart in June - at the summit of "G20" in Mexico. After it became known that instead of Vladimir Putin at G8 meeting will go the Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, the source of Kommersant in the Kremlin reported, that Russian president will make his first foreign visit "in one of the post-Soviet countries". It was assumed, this will be Kazakhstan, where Mr. Putin will go in early June on his way to Beijing where he will host a summit of the SCO. However, as Kommerstant learnt, President of Russia will at first visit Belarus.