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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Takes His Triumphs to G-7 Talks

President Vladimir Putin heads for the weekend G-7 summit armed with an impressive legislative track record that he hopes will convince the Group of Seven that Russia is serious about reforms and ready to be counted as a partner.

But any leverage that Putin has won by pushing long-awaited bills on money laundering, land ownership and taxes through parliament could well be weakened by a storm of criticism he faces from the United States and possibly Europe over Chechnya and freedom of the press.

He will also have to wrestle with tough issues such as NATO expansion, Iraq sanctions and Washington's plans to build a missile defense shield, which Russia fiercely opposes.

Despite the wealth of material up for discussion, analysts do not expect the summit to yield any major decisions.

Putin, with economic adviser Andrei Illarionov at his side, arrives in the coastal town of Genoa, Italy, for the three days of meetings Friday. Russia is not a formal member of the G-7 — which includes the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada — but has been invited to participate in recent years, making it the G-8. Putin attended last year's summit in Okinawa, Japan.

Unlike past years, this time Russia expects to be included in all working sessions, a government spokesman said.

The Kremlin has said little about what it hopes to accomplish at the summit. Putin said Wednesday at a news conference that violence in the Middle East and Russia's proposal to lift sanctions on Iraq would dominate some of the discussions.

Other government officials have said Putin will raise Russian concerns about clashes in Macedonia and Washington's plans to ditch the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty signed with Moscow in 1972 by building the missile defense shield.

The highlight of Putin's visit will be Sunday, when he sits down for the second time with U.S. President George W. Bush. The two presidents first met in June in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and emerged from that discussion filled with praise for each other.

This weekend's meeting may put the first strains on their new-found friendship, political observers said.

"The result of the meeting in Ljubljana was a huge breakthrough, a big step forward in mutual understanding. The result of the meeting in Genoa will be a confirmation of that understanding," said Sergei Markov, head of the Kremlin-connected Strana.ru news web site.

"At the same time, all serious disagreements [between the two countries] will be set in stone," he added.

No breakthroughs, however, will be made, predicted Markov and Andrei Ryabov, political analyst at the Carnegie Center. "Serious decisions won't be reached because the sides are not ready and no documents have been prepared," Ryabov said.

Ryabov said that in discussing the missile defense shield, Bush will probably try to get a feel for what Putin hopes to accomplish with a 20-year friendship treaty he signed with Chinese President Jiang Zemin this week. China, like Russia, opposes the shield.

Putin denied again Wednesday that the Russian-Chinese pact will lead to a military agreement or that the two nations will take joint action if Washington scraps the ABM Treaty.

"In practice, we do not plan joint activities in this sphere, including with China," Putin said.

Putin used his first appearance at the G-7 summit last year to come out against the missile defense shield.

The Bush administration argues that with the end of the Cold War, Cold War treaties are no longer necessary. Officials say the United States needs to protect itself and its allies against new threats from so-called rogue nations such as North Korea and Iraq.

U.S. National Security adviser Condoleezza Rice said last week that Washington wants "a new strategic framework for dealing with the security threats." Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, in Rome on Wednesday laying the ground for the summit, reiterated that Russia was ready for an open dialogue about the shield.

Markov predicted that the G-7 summit would sound the death knell for the ABM Treaty.

In arguing against NATO expansion, Putin is likely to use logic similar to the Bush administration's by saying that the organization has outlived its purpose, analysts said.

"We do not see a tragedy in its existence, but we also see no need for it," Putin said Wednesday. "There is no more Warsaw Pact, no more Soviet Union, but NATO continues to exist and develop."

Bush, in turn, will raise U.S. concerns about a Kremlin crackdown on the press and the ongoing war in Chechnya, Rice said. "President [Bush] will, of course, talk also to President Putin about a number of issues on which we do not agree — Chechnya, about the concerns for media freedom, and on Russia's relations with its neighbors," she said.

The two presidents may also announce an initiative called the U.S.-Russia Business Dialogue whereby U.S. and Russian businesses will develop commercial policy recommendations.

"We will discuss ways to advance a reform and business-based economic relationship with Russia," Rice said.

Putin and Bush first talked about such a group in Slovenia, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

"It's up to us, up to the private sector to make things happen," said Eugene Lawson, president of the U.S.-Russia Business Council, which along with the American Chamber of Commerce and the Russian-American Business Council are spearheading the new initiative.

As part of the proposed U.S.-Russia Business Dialogue, U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Commerce Secretary Don Evans are slated to arrive in Moscow on Tuesday to discuss with Putin and other government officials how to get the group rolling, according to the Commerce Department.

O'Neill is no stranger to doing business in Russia. He once ran International Paper, which owns 99 percent of the Svetogorsk paper and pulp mill, and until last month owned a large chunk of shares in the paper giant. He also is the former CEO of Alcoa, the world's largest aluminum company. Russian Aluminum is No. 2.

Also at the weekend summit, G-7 leaders are expected to consider Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organization by 2002 or 2003.

The G-7 may also be asked, some economists say, to delay or rollover some of Russia's multibillion-dollar foreign debt. A large part of that debt comes due in 2003.

Putin appears to be sitting pretty going into economic talks, having laid the ground for possible concessions by steering economic reforms through parliament — even though a lot of work remains to be done and much of the new legislation still needs to be implemented, economists said.

Putin hinted at the debt issue in an interview published Monday, telling the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that Russia is playing a major role in resolving the Third World debt issue — one of the items up for discussion this weekend — by actively writing off many of those debts.