Medvedev and Obama: competition or cooperation at G20?

Leaders of the world's richest nations are gathering in London to sort out the world economy, but the meeting may be over before it starts, with both sides entrenched over the issues of stimulus versus regulation.

Continental Europe, including France and Germany, wants to stop spending and clamp down on banks. The US and Britain want to throw more money at the problem. Russia and China have been pushing the idea of a new world reserve currency to replace the dollar ahead of the G20.

Before getting down to business G20 leaders will also have a chance for one and one meetings. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is expected to meet British PM Gordon Brown, Chinese president Hu Jintao and Australian PM Kevin Rudd.

However, the most anticipated meeting by far will be Dmitry Medvedev meeting his American counterpart Barack Obama. Both presidents have already exchanged phone calls and letters but this will be their first personal encounter.

The presidents will discuss economic issues primarily, though nuclear weapons are expected to dominate those talks. Both sides are expected to seek a renewal of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and reassurances on the missile defence row.

Obviously, these two issues are way too global and too controversial to be resolved during one meeting, especially given that it will last only one hour.

The Kremlin hopes that on Wednesday it will be able to discuss the date and the place of the next meeting of the two presidents. Medvedev and Obama will also want to reach some kind of consensus over Afghanistan.

Richard Weitz, Director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis says currently there is cooperation and competition between the two countries:

“Afghanistan is a good area for co-operation between NATO and Russia, but there are some quite competitive things that we have seen over the base in Kyrgyzstan, where Washington has suspicions that Moscow encouraged the expulsion of the US forces from that base. But the fact that Russia is allowing NATO and the US to use its territory to send supplies from Europe into Afghanistan through Central Asia. So, there is a mixture of competition and cooperation which tends more towards cooperation than competition,” Weitz said.

It is likely, however, that a solution to the economic downturn will cause the most savage debates between G20 members.

James Pinkerton from the New America Foundation says a transatlantic rift will cause big problems.

Pinkerton remarked that “There is a substantial difference in views on the big issue of how to re-stimulate the economy. Germany will not follow the same policies as the US in terms of, how they put it: printing money and trying to re-inflate the economy that way. And, of course, the Czech Prime Minister, who is the rotating president of the EU, said that American policies were ‘the road to hell’, which is not the most promising overture for this summit.”

RT spoke to the head of Russia's State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Konstantin Kosachev ahead of the meeting in London about the plan of approach and he said that Russia needs “to see better responsibility.”

Kosachev was direct in his remarks:

“We need to see how Americans are going to handle the huge budget deficit. We need to be sure that they will not just continue to print dollars in order to combat the existing problems.”