“Certainly the White House is trying to keep expectations low,” said Matthew Goodman, chairman of the political economy program at CSIS. “There will not be any big, new initiatives.”
Mr. Medvedev will attend the G-8 meeting instead of Mr. Putin, who was inaugurated for a new six-year term as president of Russia last week. Mr. Putin, who has led Russia for a dozen years, told Mr. Obama that he needs more time to reorganize his government - an excuse that is the foreign-policy equivalent of claiming he has a headache. Without him, analysts say, there’s little chance of progress on issues such as the Syrian government’s bloody crackdown on protesters, or on Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons program.
A senior Russian lawmaker told Bloomberg news service that Mr. Putin is showing his displeasure with Mr. Obama over U.S. criticism of Russian elections and the lack of progress on a proposed missile shield. But Mr. Froman downplayed the suggestion that Mr. Putin is trying to send a message to the Obama administration.
“I wouldn’t overinterpret President Putin’s decision,” Mr. Froman said. “We are in very close touch.”
But Ms. Conley said the Russian leader’s message was unmistakable.
“It was an extraordinary event,” she said. “I don’t believe it bodes well in the near term for working constructively with Moscow on some of these more significant issues.”