Russian President Vladimir V. Putin is skipping a planned visit to the United States this month for an economic summit and a much-anticipated meeting with President Obama, the White House announced Wednesday.
The Russian leader told Obama by phone that he is unable to join the other leaders of the Group of Eight industrial nations meeting outside Washington on May 18-19 because he needs to finish work setting up his new Cabinet, the White House said. The Obama administration had moved the gathering to the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland from the planned venue in Chicago partly to accommodate Putin.
Putin's change of heart appeared to take the White House by surprise. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon had traveled to Moscow last week to discuss the G-8 agenda and other issues with Putin and other leaders.
Putin took power this week, returning after six years to a post he had previously held for two terms. He made sharp criticism of the United States a central theme in his campaign, but it is not clear whether he will pull back from cooperation with the United States in several areas begun by former President Dmitry Medvedev.
"The two presidents reiterated their interest in the sustained high-level dialogue that has characterized the reset of relations and the substantial progress of the last three years," since Obama took office, the White House said in a statement outlining the phone call Wednesday.
The statement listed several areas of cooperation, such as nuclear security and nonproliferation, the war in Afghanistan and Russian membership in the World Trade Organization. It did not mention whether the leaders discussed areas of disagreement, such as the international response to violence in Syria.