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Moscow Times
July 6, 2009
Kremlin Plays Coy on Agenda for G8 Summit
By Nadia Popova / The Moscow Times

With the worlds attention turning to Moscow on Monday for U.S. President Barack Obamas three-day visit, the Kremlin has decided to take a wait-and-see approach before unveiling its agenda for a G8 summit later this week.

President Dmitry Medvedevs top foreign policy aide, Sergei Prikhodko, said Friday that the Kremlins pet topic for international economic forums replacing the dollar with supranational or regional reserve currencies could come up briefly, but he indicated that Medvedev would not push the issue.

I dont think its a comfortable topic for the president of the United States, Prikhodko said, Itar-Tass reported. More likely, the topic will be reforming and perfecting international financial institutions. Medvedev, I think, will touch on this and seek their opinions, he said.

Kremlin spokesman Alexei Pavlov said Russias agenda had already been set for the three-day summit in LAquila, Italy, but stated that he could not reveal it before Tuesday, when Medvedevs top economic adviser, Arkady Dvorkovich, is scheduled to hold a news conference.

Prikhodko also said Medvedev would hold talks on the sidelines with leaders from around 10 countries, including China, Italy, France, Japan, Spain and South Korea.

The main priority for Russia at this summit will be to raise its importance, to have more of an influential role, rather than being treated as something of an unwelcome guest as was often the case in the past, said Chris Weafer, chief strategist at UralSib.

Russia is very likely to push its claim to be the voice of developing economies within the G8 group, and Medvedev will push Russias credentials as a spokesman for them, he said.

The format of the meeting could give Russia an opportunity to do just that, as some 30 countries have been invited to participate at the summit in the Apennine Mountains city of LAquila, which was seriously damaged in a series of earthquakes in April.

On Wednesday, the G8 comprising the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Canada and Russia, as well as representatives from the European Union will meet to discuss the economic crisis, climate, the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs and other regional issues, Prikhodko said.

The following day, the G8 leaders will be joined by the so-called Plus Five Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa as well as Egypt, he said.

On Friday, about 30 countries will participate in the talks, including Angola, Nigeria, Senegal, Algeria and Libya, which are expected to focus on ways to help Africa cope with the economic downturn by developing new infrastructure and energy projects.

This is essentially a recognition of the fact that in the current multipolar world, key global questions can only be decided through the collective efforts of a wide range of governments, Prikhodko added.

But Russia, which was granted a seat at the Group of Seven advanced industrial nations in 1997, could also have trouble acting as a representative for the developing world because of the wide attendance.

The biggest developing economies will all be present there in LAquila and will all speak for themselves, said Natalya Orlova, chief economist at Alfa Bank.

Anti-Americanism is currently a main driver of Russias initiatives in the G8, said Yevgeny Gavrilenkov, chief economist at Troika Dialog. Russia doesnt have a lot of its own formulated concepts, but it has the idea of the supranational currency. No one expects any economic breakthroughs, and no one actually wants them from Moscow.

Beijing, which has also backed the idea of a broader system of reserve currencies, has signaled that it wont challenge Washington on the issue in LAquila, and Medvedev also might not make it a priority this time particularly if the talks between Obama and Medvedev go well.

If the Moscow summit goes well, then we may expect a less forceful position concerning the dollar from the Russian delegation, Weafer said. In that instance, they will raise the issue, because that is what has been promised to China, Brazil and other energy producers, but more as a topic for discussion than a priority.