Russia will enjoy the "psychological stroking" that goes along with great power status at the Okinawa G-8 Conference in Japan next week, but is unlikely to cut any financial deals at the summit, observers say.
Despite President Vladimir Putin's claim that Russia would concentrate on global issues as an equal partner rather than using the G-7 as a vehicle for procuring international loans, analysts say Moscow had in fact been hoping for a debt write-off.
"Russia had been acting as though it was going to get a portion of its [Soviet-era] Paris Club debt written off at the conference," said Ben Slay, an economist with PlanEcon, a Washington-based research institute. "But now it sees that the G-7 countries are taking a hard-line stance, mainly because of Chechnya. So at best Russia might receive a small rescheduling."
Although analysts say Chechnya is unlikely to dominate G-7 proceedings, it was revealed Thursday that the most outspoken Western critic of Russia's Chechen campaign, French President Jaques Chirac, would not meet Putin on the sidelines of the meeting because of "scheduling difficulties."
For his part, Putin is scheduled to hold bilateral meetings with U.S. President Bill Clinton, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, ITAR-TASS reported Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov as saying.
Russia was formally invited to attend G-7 meetings in 1997 as well as the APEC Asian trading block as a sop by Clinton to smooth the path for NATO's eastward expansion. Analysts say that although security issues are also discussed at G-7 meetings, the conference focuses primarily on economic issues, thus limiting Russia's influence.
"Russia's seat at the United Nations reflects its great power status. But the G-7 deals with economic and financial issues relating to the world economy and in global economic matters Russia doesn't count," Slay said. "Russia's trade flows are small, and although it has a lot of oil, even there it plays second to OPEC."
"As much as anything [Russia's G-8 membership] is a psychological stroking for the country it makes it feel a part of the international decision-making process. And if that helps international relations, then that's OK," Slay said.
Analysts say that although Russia will push for a write-off of Soviet debt, the unlikely event of a deal on the issue coupled with the public "softly-softly" approach by the G-7 on Chechnya, means Russia will probably have only two issues to discuss national missile defense (NMD) and international terrorism.
"I think we will see a lot of talk about National Missile Defense and action against international terrorism," said Keith Bush of the Washington based Center for Strategic and International Studies. "NMD is an important issue and there is far from universal consensus on it."
The proposed construction by the United States of a national missile defense system to intercept missiles from "rogue states" has been the subject of intense controversy both among Washington's NATO allies and countries like Russia and China.
That important issue aside, Bush also questioned whether Russia really warranted a place at the G-7 table.
"Russia is simply not in the same league of highly developed industrialized countries [as G-7 members]. Its GDP is 2 percent of that of the United States," he said.
"You also have to question why a member of the G-8, which last year ran a $25 billion balance-of-payment surplus, is asking for debt reduction. First, why would a full G-7 member need debt reduction? And second, along that line, there are a lot more impoverished nations than Russia that need debt relief."
"Of course, the Soviet debt is an odious debt because the U.S.S.R. has gone. But there are other countries in much greater need than Russia," he added.
Both analysts said the current crackdown on big business in Russia which began with the arrest of oligarch and owner of Russia's only private television network, Vladimir Gusinsky, sparking fears of a press clampdown were unlikely to be publicly raised at the conference.
Separately, Putin is scheduled to travel to China and North Korea en route to the G-8 summit in Okinawa, and is expected to make an official visit to Japan in September, according to Foreign Minister Ivanov.
North Korea is one of the "rogue states" mentioned by the United States as justification for its planned construction of NMD. The United States says that North Korea could have the technology to launch a nuclear missile capable of striking an American city in the near future.