To understand the current state of affairs between Washington and Moscow, take a gander at this tweet:
BREAKING: White House says Obama, Putin held informal conversation on margins of leaders lunch.— The Associated Press (@AP) June 6, 2014
Diplomatic ties between President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin are so strained, a brief exchange has become breaking news.
Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said the two presidents spoke to each other for about 15 minutes during a leaders lunch on Friday at the G-7 summit in Brussels. According to Rhodes, Obama "underscored that the successful Ukranian election provides an opportunity" for Putin "that should be taken." If it is taken, Obama told Putin, "there could be openings to reduce tensions."
Now we have proof, from the French presidency's Vine account, of all places:
The day before, Obama told reporters that he had no doubt he would see Putin, with whom he has "always had a businesslike relationship," during this week's events. "Keep in mind that although we haven't had formal meetings, I've spoken to him by phone repeatedly from the outset of the protests," he said during a press conference. "And my message has been very consistent—and that is that Russia has a legitimate interest in what happens in Ukraine, given that it's on its border and given its historical ties. But ultimately, it is up to the people of Ukraine to make their own decisions."
Obama said that if Russia decides not to pursue diplomatic engagement with Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine's newly elected president, then the U.S. has "no choice but to respond."
"But I think we have to see what he does and not what he says," the president added. Until then, much of the back-and-forth between the nations will remain "on the margins"—and breaking news.
Face-to-face interactions between the two world leaders have always been closely watched, however. Recall how the handshake the pair shared last September, when they met during the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, was dissected for hints of meaning (and clues of awkwardness).
This post has been updated with more details of the meeting.
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