The Awkward, Friendly, 15-Second Meeting Between Obama and Putin

Fan fiction from the first meeting between the two leaders at the G-20 summit.

National Journal
Matt Vasilogambros
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Matt Vasilogambros
Sept. 5, 2013, 6:46 a.m.

It’s the first meet­ing between Pres­id­ent Obama and Rus­si­an Pres­id­ent Vladi­mir Putin since Obama can­celed plans for a bi­lat­er­al meet­ing at the G-20 sum­mit in St. Peters­burg, Rus­sia.

Putin has been de­fi­ant in sev­er­al areas of for­eign policy, in­clud­ing giv­ing tem­por­ary refuge to in­tel­li­gence leak­er Ed­ward Snowden and block­ing United Na­tions ac­tion against the As­sad re­gime in Syr­ia. And while the main top­ic on the agenda for this week­end’s meet­ing is eco­nom­ic growth and fight­ing tax eva­sion by ma­jor cor­por­a­tions, that’s not go­ing to stop any­one from won­der­ing about the role the more con­ten­tious is­sues might play in the an­nu­al sum­mit.

So, of course, we are go­ing to over­ana­lyze this first in­ter­ac­tion of the two lead­ers.

Obama heads over to Putin after get­ting out of the spe­cial, pres­id­en­tial car, aptly named “The Beast.” The oth­er lead­ers strolled up in reg­u­lar Mer­cedes, ac­cord­ing to re­ports. This shows a sense of poise, con­fid­ence, and strength — strong at­trib­utes you want to show a po­ten­tial rival. Putin is an old pro at this. He’s tested his lan­guage skills with 30 oth­er lead­ers thus far. The two men ex­tend hands for what’s likely to be a firm shake. Neither man wants to seem hes­it­ant, nor break eye con­tact. For now, the men are equals. The real test comes next.

The two lead­ers are now shar­ing some small talk. We do know that Putin knows a lim­ited amount of Eng­lish. Obama could be com­ment­ing on the seem­ingly lovely weath­er in the Rus­si­an city. “I thought the Rus­si­an winter might have star­ted already,” Obama could have com­men­ted. The Rus­si­an premi­er looks po­lite, but not over en­thu­si­ast­ic about the com­ment. After all, he does have his own do­mest­ic ap­pear­ance to hold up.

Next, the Rus­si­an pres­id­ent tries to re­turn fire with his own snide com­ment. Maybe he’ll tell a joke. “Why did the chick­en cross the road? To avoid ex­tra­di­tion to the United States.” Obama gives it a hearty laugh, but will likely scoff at the memory of this mo­ment. “I didn’t know Rus­si­ans had a sense of hu­mor,” Obama might have re­tor­ted.

Well that was awk­ward — an in­ter­ac­tion that las­ted only 15 seconds. Putin main­tains his po­s­i­tion for the next ar­rival of a world lead­er. All he knows is that this is prob­ably not the last in­ter­ac­tion between the two lead­ers this week. They might bump in­to each oth­er at the re­stroom, or the two men might share some vodka later that night and have a ma­jor break­through on for­eign re­la­tions. For now, however, it’s back to the same old, same old. As Obama walks away, Putin thinks to him­self, “Re­set, my ass,” and waits for the next lead­er to ar­rive.

All pho­tos by the As­so­ci­ated Press

What We're Following See More »
FBI TURNED DOWN REQUEST
Report: Trump Asked FBI to Deny Russia Stories
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"The FBI rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump's associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign, multiple US officials briefed on the matter tell CNN. But a White House official said late Thursday that the request was only made after the FBI indicated to the White House it did not believe the reporting to be accurate."

Source:
THE QUESTION
How Many Signatures Has the Petition for Trump’s Tax Returns Received?
3 days ago
THE ANSWER

More than 1 million, setting a record. More than 100,000 signatures triggers an official White House response.

Source:
TIED TO RUSSIA INVESTIGATION
Sen. Collins Open to Subpoena of Trump’s Tax Returns
3 days ago
THE LATEST

Sen. Susan Collins, who sits on the Intelligence Committee, "said on Wednesday she's open to using a subpoena to investigate President Donald Trump's tax returns for potential connections to Russia." She said the committee is also open to subpoenaing Trump himself. "This is a counter-intelligence operation in many ways," she said of Russia's interference. "That's what our committee specializes in. We are used to probing in depth in this area."

Source:
NPR ALSO LAUNCHES ETHICS WATCH
Obama Staffers Launch Group to Monitor Trump Ethics
3 days ago
WHY WE CARE

"Top lawyers who helped the Obama White House craft and hold to rules of conduct believe President Donald Trump and his staff will break ethics norms meant to guard against politicization of the government — and they’ve formed a new group to prepare, and fight. United to Protect Democracy, which draws its name from a line in President Barack Obama’s farewell address that urged his supporters to pick up where he was leaving off, has already raised a $1.5 million operating budget, hired five staffers and has plans to double that in the coming months." Meanwhile, NPR has launched a "Trump Ethics Monitor" to track the resolution of ten ethics-related promises that the president has made.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login