WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin will use their meeting on Monday, the first since Putin returned to Russia's top job, to claim leverage in a mutually dependent but volatile relationship.

Obama needs Russia to help, or at least not hurt, U.S. foreign policy aims in the Mideast and Afghanistan. Putin needs the United States as a foil for his argument that Russia doesn't get its due as a great power.

Obama and Putin are set to meet on the sidelines of the Group of 20 economic gathering in Mexico that will otherwise focus largely on the European economic crisis.

Russia is a linchpin in several U.S. foreign policy goals. Chief among them are the international effort to deny Iran a nuclear weapon and a smooth shutdown of the Afghanistan War. Brutal attacks on anti-government protesters in Syria and the threat of civil war in the Mideast nation pose the most immediate crisis. In the longer term, Obama wants Russia's continued cooperation in nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation.

Things got off to a rocky start this spring, when Obama pointedly withheld a customary congratulatory phone call to Putin until days after his election. Putin appeared to snub Obama by skipping the smaller and weightier Group of Eight meeting that Obama hosted last month at Camp David.

Despite their differences, Putin probably would prefer a second Obama term to a Mitt Romney presidency, Katz said, not least because the Republican challenger has called Russia the chief strategic enemy of the United States. -- AP

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