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Russia turns its gaze eastward with APEC economic summit

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President Obama, busy with the Democratic convention this week, will not be attending. In his place will be Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who's completing a swing through the Pacific region to reassure allies of ongoing US support. The Russians insist they scheduled the meeting in September, even though they knew no US president was going to be able to attend in that time frame only because it's the most pleasant season in Vladivostok.

"In early September Vladivostok is sunny and warm; that changes even by the second half of the month. It's all about the weather," says Gleb Ivanshevtsov, deputy director of the Russian Center for APEC Studies, a governmental think tank. "It's no big deal. There are lots of precedents where top leaders have been unable to attend an APEC summit."

But presidents and prime ministers of most member countries will be on hand to view the transformation of Vladivostok, formerly a major Soviet naval base that was closed to foreigners, and hear the Russian pitch for greater trade, investment, and political dialogue.

"Vladivostok used to be mainly a military center, but now we're going to turn it into a major economic and commercial hub," says Mr. Ivanshevtsov.

"Russia is still at the periphery of Asia, and it accounts for just about a fifth of our total trade. That's got to change. Two-thirds of our territory is in Asia and we have the longest Pacific coastline of any country. We have a border with the US out here, but none in the West. This is the fastest-growing economic region in the world, and we aim to be part of it," he says.

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