Interview with Dmitry Simes
A participant at last year's gathering in Saint Petersburg, Mr Simes is concerned about the atmosphere this year, which he expects will be no where near as friendly. Dmitry Simes: It’s going to be a very difficult discussion for President Putin. But the problem for western leaders is that they have a lot of complaints about the Russian conduct. They come under domestic pressure, which forces them to criticise Russia – sometimes more vigorously than it’s justified. But at the same time, the West does not want a new cold war. The issue for western leaders is how to find the way to express their concern over Russian conduct, but not to go too far so that co-operation with Russia would become impossible.
Russia Today: What do you think the atmosphere is going to be like? We’ll see some new leaders, some old leaders, and we’ll also see some leaders who are going.
D.S.: Even with old leaders, the atmosphere is not likely to be quite as friendly as two or three years ago. The chemistry between, for instance, President Putin and President Bush, is not what it used to be. There clearly was a mutual disillusionment as far as President Putin and Prime Minister Tony Blair are concerned. I would say that Chancellor Merkel is not quite as friendly to Mr Putin as her predecessor Mr Schroeder’s was. So, I think that it would affect the climate in Germany that some of the leaders are not there. But I don’t think it would affect the substance, the forecast of the discussions.
RT: What are the main issues to be discussed in Germany?
D.S.: I think that Kosovo will definitely be on the agenda. This will be an opportunity for the Untied States, the EU to make clear to Russia that they feel very strongly about providing Kosovo’s independence and that Russia might be isolated if it doesn’t follow Washington and European allies. So, Putin will come under very strong pressure on the Kosovo issue.
I think that there will also be a discussion of Iran. The Iranians are not complying with UN resolutions. Russia seems to be willing to approve further sanctions. But the question is what kind of sanctions. And here the United States and the EU want to be more forthcoming than Russia is prepared to be so far.
Besides, I think that, clearly, there will be a discussion of Russian relations with its neighbours and of the Russian political process. And I think, on the Russian political process there will be rather a tough discussion, because the Russian government is increasingly talking back and saying it is not interested in lectures and suggesting to western allies to look in the mirror. We already know that President Putin is not easily intimidated. And he certainly is not intimidated by superior numbers of western leaders at the summit. My assumption is that he will talk back. My another assumption is that western leaders know that he would talk back. And that’s why everybody would try to be careful in what they say and how they say it in order to avoid an explosive public confrontation, which clearly nobody wants at this point. Well, I shouldn’t say ‘nobody’. I suspect that the Polish government may enjoy it, but they are not going to be there. At least yet, they are not a member of the G8.