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

.photo.left{display:none;}Fan fiction from the first meeting between the two leaders at the G-20 summit.

National Journal
Matt Vasilogambros
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 »
FRENCH IS A LAWYER, VETERAN
Kristol Recruiting National Review’s David French for Third-Party Run
8 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Two Republicans intimately familiar with Bill Kristol’s efforts to recruit an independent presidential candidate to challenge Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have told Bloomberg Politics that the person Kristol has in mind is David French -- whose name the editor of the Weekly Standard floated in the current issue of the magazine.

French is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. According to the website of National Review, where French is a staff writer, he is a constitutional lawyer, a recipient of the Bronze Star, and an author of several books who lives in Columbia, Tenn., with his wife Nancy and three children."

Source:
CALIFORNIA VOTES IN A WEEK
Jerry Brown Backs Clinton
10 hours ago
THE LATEST

California Gov. Jerry Brown endorsed Hillary Clinton today, calling her "the only path forward to win the presidency and stop the dangerous candidacy of Donald Trump." While praising Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign, Brown said "Clinton’s lead is insurmountable and Democrats have shown – by millions of votes – that they want her as their nominee. ... This is no time for Democrats to keep fighting each other. The general election has already begun."

Source:
GLASS CEILING STILL HARD TO CRACK
Clinton Says Voters Still Hung Up on Gender
13 hours ago
THE LATEST

In a New York Magazine profile, Hillary Clinton said she still encounters misogyny at her own events: “‘I really admire you, I really like you, I just don’t know if I can vote for a woman to be president.’ I mean, they come to my events and then they say that to me.”

Source:
CHANGE WE CAN’T BELIEVE IN
Trump Vows Not to Change
13 hours ago
THE LATEST
Source:
BACKING OUT ON BERNIE
Trump Won’t Debate Sanders After All
4 days ago
THE LATEST

Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”

×