President Barack Obama will skip a major annual summit of Asia-Pacific nations hosted by Russia in September because of the demands of his reelection campaign, according to Russian media. The White House did not immediately confirm the report.
But the news is far from a total surprise: The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit is scheduled for September 1-8 in Vladivostok. Obama is planning to formally accept the Democratic nomination for reelection at the party's convention in North Carolina on September 6.
And the president himself essentially tipped his hand when he met with Russia's then-president, Dmitry Medvedev, in Seoul in March. "I wish him all the best," Obama said. "And I would love to visit St. Petersburg. He is absolutely right that my next visit to Russia will undoubtedly be after my election."
A White House aide pointed Yahoo News to that exchange, which indicates that Obama's decision to skip APEC is not a diplomatic "neener-neener" in retaliation for Russian President Vladimir Putin's newly announced decision to skip the Group of Eight wealthy nations summit. Obama hosts the G8 at the secluded Camp David presidential retreat late next week.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One on Thursday that Obama was "not disappointed" by Putin's decision. The Russian president informed Obama by telephone Wednesday that he had to "finalize Cabinet appointments" after his long-expected, widely-predicted election victory.
"We're not disappointed," Carney said. "It was not a surprise, and it does not at all feel like a snub." The Moscow Times reported, however, that Obama's absence from the APEC summit "would dent the prestige" of the annual gathering:
The Kremlin has poured billions of rubles into upgrading Vladivostok's infrastructure and making other preparations for the event, which, among other things, is meant to showcase the Far East as an investment opportunity. Putin has made the economic development of the Far East a priority of his presidency.
Obama and Putin will meet on the sidelines of the June 18-19 "Group of 20" nations in Mexico.
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