Russian President Vladimir Putin needled the United States Thursday for perhaps being in economic trouble after Secretary of State John Kerry was toting his own bag at the airport.
Putin appeared jointly with Kerry after a meeting in Moscow to talk about Ukraine and the war in Syria.
Putin told Kerry that Russia is “always glad to have your visits, because they are always businesslike and give us a chance to move – to make headway on very important and serious matters.”
“But today, when I saw the footage of you going down the plane carrying your luggage, I was a bit frustrated and upset,” Putin continued. “On the one hand, it’s quite a democratic way of conduct, but on the other hand, I thought probably the situation in the United States is not that good and there is no one to assist the secretary of State in carrying his luggage. I hear your economy is OK. I mean, there are no – there is no slowdown.”
“Probably then I thought there was something in that case of your – in the briefcase of yours you couldn’t trust anyone else with. Probably you brought some money with you to haggle on key matters.”
The Russian president added that “in earnest, we are really glad to see you always… we manage to find some common ground in order to move forward on important matters of bilateral and international agenda.”
Kerry quipped that “when we have a private moment, I’ll show you what’s in my briefcase — and I think you’ll be surprised, pleasantly.”
Kerry turned to business, stating “that the serious approach that we have been able to cooperate on has made a difference to the life of people in Syria and to the possibilities of making progress on peace.”
“Most observers thought it was impossible to achieve a cessation of hostilities, and because of the cooperation, both political and military, which we have been able to achieve with some effort, this Sunday will mark one month of the cessation,” he said, though Syrians have reported since the beginning of the ceasefire that Russian strikes have continued.
The State Department set up a tip line for reports of ceasefire violations, but quickly drew criticism for not staffing it with enough Arabic speakers.
“The people of Syria and the people of the region, as a result, have literally been able to taste and smell the possibilities of what it means to have a huge reduction in violence and to receive humanitarian assistance,” Kerry said.
Kerry added that the U.S. has “some ideas” for “how we could perhaps make faster, greater progress with respect to Ukraine.”
“I know you’re very anxious to address other serious issues, so I look forward very much to the opportunity tonight to be able to find a way forward, and frankly, ultimately see if we can’t rebuild and strengthen the relationship between the United States and Russia by proving that we know how to solve some serious problems together, and building from there,” he said.