Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bush, Putin Upbeat on Summit Eve

MTA couple of women walking past an ad on Tverskaya Ulitsa on Wednesday welcoming U.S. President George W. Bush to the summit. To their left is the Marriott Grand Hotel, where Bush may stay.
When U.S. President George W. Bush arrives Thursday evening for his first visit to Russia, he is expected to help formalize a shift in relations between the two countries: from a semblance of Cold War-era strategic parity that Russia can no longer afford into a nonconfrontational partnership, albeit an unequal one.

"The summit has to seal the colossal changes that have taken place in relations between the two countries," said Dmitry Trenin of the Moscow Carnegie Center. "We are talking about a not yet established but developing partnership between the sole global power and an important regional power."

Speaking to a session of the State Council presidium dedicated to foreign policy Wednesday, President Vladimir Putin described the arms control treaty to be signed at the summit as a major achievement.

"The atmosphere of mutual trust that has been achieved during the past year and the clear understanding that our countries are no longer enemies have allowed us to reach a new agreement in strategic weapons reduction," Putin said.

Bush also was upbeat on the eve of his departure on a European tour. In an interview with a group of European reporters, he said Putin is "very much a friend" and he will push for a joint effort of the United States, Europe and Russia for integrating Russia into Western society when he addresses the German parliament, the Bundestag, on Thursday. "Welcoming Russia, Russia's vision, into the West is important for all of us," Bush said Tuesday in Washington.

During talks in Moscow and St. Petersburg, the two presidents are to sign a treaty cutting the number of strategic nuclear warheads over 10 years to one-third their current level, a declaration on a new strategic relationship and a statement on cooperation in the field of energy, the Foreign Ministry said.

Apart from discussions on Russia's new role in NATO, a separate joint statement is expected to deal with anti-terrorism issues. The joint working group on Afghanistan is to be transformed into an anti-terrorism working group, part of which is to deal with the threat of terrorists using weapons of mass destruction. Thorny issues such as Iraq and Iran, part of Bush's "axis of evil," also will be on the table.

Despite the priority placed on security matters, economic issues such as market-economy status for Russia and ongoing trade disputes between the two countries also will likely be high on the agenda.

"The key issue is the liquidation of the Cold War heritage, of all that hinders Russia and the United States in strengthening ties in the trade, economic and investment fields," Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said Wednesday in a statement. "Special attention will be paid to cooperation in the high-tech sphere, including the aerospace industry and computer science."

It was unclear whether the Bush administration would grant market-economy status to Russia during the summit. Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said although the issue is likely to be discussed in Moscow, the U.S. Commerce Department was unable to complete its review in time for Bush's visit, Interfax reported. However, Robert Nurick, director of the Moscow Carnegie Center, said Wednesday at a press conference that he "would not be surprised" if a decision was announced during the summit.

Nurick said a decision on lifting the Jackson-Vanik amendment, though, was unlikely until later in the summer. The amendment, which links trade relations to Russian emigration policy, can only be repealed by Congress.

Air Force One is scheduled to land at Moscow's Vnukovo Airport at about 8 p.m. Thursday, Interfax reported. Due to heightened security, the White House said Wednesday it was not releasing a timetable for Bush's visit.

But a schedule announced earlier this week by the Kremlin is little different from those of previous summits. Bush will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Friday morning before starting talks in the Kremlin, RTR television reported, citing Putin's spokesman Alexei Gromov.

The treaty signing ceremony will be in St. Andrew's Hall at around noon, followed by a news conference. An official lunch in honor of George and Laura Bush will conclude the Kremlin bit of the program, and, if weather permits, the presidents will take a short walk around Cathedral Square.

In the afternoon, the presidents will meet with businessmen at a session of the Russian-American Business Dialogue -- a board established at the first Bush-Putin summit in Slovenia two years ago, the U.S.- Russia Business Council said.

Friday evening, the Bushes will dine privately with the Putins at their suburban Novo-Ogaryovo residence.

On Saturday, the presidents and their entourages will move to Putin's hometown, St. Petersburg. As all heads of state who visit Russia's "northern capital" do, Bush will pay tribute Saturday at the Piskaryovskoye Cemetery to the 470,000 victims of the siege of Leningrad who are buried there.

He is scheduled to meet Saturday with students at St. Petersburg State University, Gromov said. A source in the U.S. Embassy said Bush may also visit another university. A tentative schedule released by the U.S.- Russia Business Council indicated he could appear at the St. Petersburg Business Institute.

On Sunday morning, Bush plans to visit the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan and the Choral Synagogue.

While a tour of the Hermitage is part of Saturday's program, the Russian Museum is also pitched for Sunday morning, the Kremlin said.

Bush indicated in the interview that he was hoping to squeeze in a river trip.

"One of the interesting things we're going to do is go to St. Petersburg together and go on the barges and see the White Nights," he said in the interview, a transcript of which was posted on the White House web site.