Awkward! Obama and Putin Meet Face to Face
Have you ever showed up at a party and discovered, to your horror, that your ex-girlfriend was invited too?
No, not the girlfriend you parted on good terms with. This is the girlfriend from hell that threw your stuff on the front lawn after she accused you of cheating for the 5th time -- even though you didn't.
Neither of you acknowledge the other's presence as you dance around the room, keeping your distance, each one ignoring the other.
If this has ever happened to you, then you get an idea of what President Obama and President Putin were feeling at the D-Day commemoration yesterday.
Whether Obama and Putin would speak was the source of speculation throughout the president’s weeklong trip to Europe. On Thursday night, French President Francois Hollande scheduled two separate dinners with each leader avoiding an uncomfortable overlap.
Earlier Thursday, it appeared as if Putin and Obama were intentionally avoiding one another during a photo session with all dignitaries attending the event.
While Obama jovially greeted other leaders — planting a kiss on both cheeks of German Chancellor Angela Merkel — he and Putin kept their distance.
At one point when the leaders were walking from the photo session toward the building where they would dine, Obama was right behind Putin, but appeared to go out of his way not to acknowledge his presence.
Yikes! Almost as bad as a jilted lover.
Finally, after the lunch attended by world leaders, the two sat down in a quiet corner and discussed Ukraine:
The highly anticipated face-to-face conversation was the first time the two spoke in person since Russia’s incursion into Ukraine earlier this year, which brought U.S condemnation.
Earlier Putin and Ukrainian President-elect Petro Poroshenko were spotted speaking to one another, although the discussion occurred out of earshot of reporters.
Obama and Putin chatted for between 10 and 15 minutes at a lunch for world leaders, according to deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes.
“It was an informal conversation — not a formal bilateral meeting,” Rhodes said, downplaying the brief interaction.
The Kremlin said Putin discussed ways to end the violence in Ukraine in his conversations with both Obama and Poroshenko.
"Putin and Obama spoke for the need to end violence and fighting as quickly as possible,” Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told USA Today.
With Poroshenko, Putin discussed the contours of a ceasefire agreement and other steps that could deescalate the crisis, French officials told the Telegraph.
"They were able to begin a dialogue on possible de-escalation measures including Moscow recognizing Poroshenko's election,” an aide to French president Francois Hollande told the paper, adding that Putin would plan to dispatch an ambassador to Kiev.
“The practicalities of a ceasefire will also be discussed in the coming days."
It appears that the current phase of Putin's Ukraine gambit may be coming to an end. A deal between Putin and Poroshenko where the Russian president agrees to call off his pro-Russian militias and Poroshenko pulls back the Ukrainian army, with talks on the country's sovereignty issues to be conducted by representatives of the separatists and Kiev government may be in the offing.
A halt in hostilities in Eastern Ukraine will give Putin time to digest the Crimea, fully integrating the region into Russia. After that, with the world's attention elsewhere, the Russian president can do whatever he wants to continue to destabilize the region.