MOSCOW. June 15 (Interfax) - A meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama on the sidelines of an upcoming G8 summit in Northern Ireland should reduce the level of anti-Russian attitudes in the U.S. establishment, says Sergei Karaganov, a member of the Russian presidential Human Rights Council.
"I think it will be efficient to the degree to which it can be efficient, that is, will produce some limited agreements plus slightly pacify the relationship, including lower the level of anti-Russian attitudes prompted by the recent events, such as the Magnitsky Act and Russia's reaction to it. However, neither party has preconditions for a breakthrough," Karaganov told Interfax in commenting on a meeting between Putin and Obama planned for Monday.
Russia and the U.S. are currently not prepared for a new reset in their bilateral relations, he said.
"I think it is so far difficult to plan a new phase in relations between the two countries for two reasons. First, the United States itself doesn't know where to go and what to do, and second, which is perhaps what counts most, Russia has not decided on its strategic domestic political course yet and is using the United States as a scapegoat. Not because we do not like America and do not trust it so much, but simply because we need some opponent as long as we are looking for our own strategy. I don't think that Russia will be prepared for any new resets in this situation, and the U.S. doesn't have this necessity and opportunity either," he said.
Talking about possible progress on missile defense, Karaganov noted that the U.S. is not prepared to drop the very idea of building a missile defense system. "Even if Putin proposes and Obama agrees creating something together, as we have repeatedly suggested, Russia's popularity rating in the world is not very high now. But I would try anyway," he said.
Fyodor Lukyanov, the chairman of the Foreign and Defense Policy Council think-tank, believes the missile defense theme is no longer a priority in relations between Moscow and Washington, especially for Russia.
"Surely, nobody disavows the statements and positions that have always been in place, and missile defense causes concerns, which was recently emphasized in an exchange of messages between Putin and Obama. But the desire Russia had two or three years ago to find some agreement on missile defense has apparently cooled down, because it is clear that the U.S. will continue this program in this or that form. It may be adjusted in terms of deadlines, financing, the volume or the location. This all is quite flexible. But the idea itself will not go anywhere," Lukyanov told Interfax.
Therefore, Russia has in fact decided that, while this missile defense system will be deployed anyway, "everything possible should be done to complicate the possibility of this system for the United States," Lukyanov said. "In other words, the nuclear potential should be modernized, so that the missile defense prospect becomes much more complicated for the Americans," he said.
It is also important for the two countries to reach agreements on issues related to local international conflicts, he said.
"That is, this concerns not bilateral subjects but subjects related to international conflicts in which Russia and the U.S. are involved for different reasons. This primarily concerns Syria. I think the parties will talk about this, especially considering that the situation surrounding Syria is obviously deteriorating now. This also concerns Iran, Afghanistan and perhaps North Korea to some extent. Actually this is what exhausts bilateral relations," Lukyanov said.
The upcoming meeting between Putin and Obama will certainly cement Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's agreements with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry regarding ways to overcome the crisis in Syria. "It is another matter that Syria is a subject on which an agreement between Lavrov and Kerry, or even between Putin and Obama, does not mean much. Unfortunately, this depends not on them," he said.
As for the possibility of signing some new document instead of the Nunn-Lugar agreement, which will expire on June 17, Lukyanov said this is possible, but on different principles.
"It is not that it [such a treaty] is vitally necessary, and it is well possible to live without it, but it would be very useful, because this is a field where Russia and the U.S. have special exclusive relations. If this field is closed and there is nothing in it, then not very much will remain in these relations in general. So, it seems to me that the parties will try to preserve this, but on different principles, because the problem of the Nunn-Lugar agreement was that, as it was concluded in a specific period, in the 1990s, it reflected Russia's subordinate position. Now Russia is seeking to make sure that all treaties concluded at that time be reconsidered and the parties' status be equitable," Lukyanov said.
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