Obama and Putin enjoy the silence
The talks between US and Russian presidents took place in quite intense atmosphere. Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama released standard official phrases that had been prepared for them in advance. It was clear that the leaders did not even have a clue of how they could regulate most sensitive issues in the relations between the two countries. Journalists concluded that Obama and Putin did not have pleasant impressions from their meeting. Obama has to be extremely careful these days: a slightest mistake may ruin his career in politics on the threshold of the presidential election in the United States. Moreover, the relations between the USA and Russia may aggravate even further because of different approaches to the Syrian problem.
The press conference after the meeting of the two presidents represented "a grim tableau that seemed to bespeak the frustration on both sides," The New York Times wrote. "During the few minutes that it took their handlers to usher reporters out of the room after their prepared remarks, the two leaders remained seated, side by side, staring straight ahead, with none of the interaction or small talk that leaders usually engage in before the cameras," Helene Cooper of The New York Times said.
US Ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul, who also took part in the briefing, tried to dissipate the negative impressions, which the journalists could have from what they could see with their own eyes. "There was nothing extraordinary" about Mr. Putin's dour demeanor, Mr. McFaul said. "That's the way he looks, that's the way he acts."
Putin did not back-pedal on the situation in Syria. The Russian president pointed out the lamentable consequences of regime changes in Egypt and Libya. Putin also said that he was concerned that the West did not have a convincing plan about the fate of a number of feuding factions and ethnic groups in Syria after the potential resignation of Syrian President Bashar Assad. As for Iran, Obama and Putin agreed that there was time left for diplomacy.
Prior to the meeting, several US senators urged Obama to be harsh and decisive with Putin. Senator John McCain, for instance, wanted to clear up the situation with Russia's supposed arms shipments to Syria. The senator stated that he would like Obama to let his Russian counterpart know that the US would not turn a blind eye on Russia's arms shipments to Syria. If Russia continues doing that, the consequences for the US-Russian relations would be very serious, the politician stated.
On the other hand, Obama and Putin need each other. "The two men met for the first time since Mr. Putin returned to the presidency amid friction over Syria and a recognition that both need each other, an uncomfortable truth for Mr. Obama as he wages a tough re-election campaign and for the newly elected Russian leader, who is deeply suspicious of the United States," Anne Gearan of The Associated Press said. "Mr. Obama made a special project of Russia in his first term and arguably needs Moscow's help even more if he wins a second one. He is trying to avoid a distracting public spat with Russia during this election year, as suggested by an overheard remark to outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in March," the journalist continued.
"Why would Putin behave this way? It may be because, unlike Obama, he may not be looking for opportunities to cooperate, nor be embarrassed about forgoing them. He appears to have a much more transactional approach to foreign policy, running something like this: Washington wants Moscow to adopt the American approach to Iran and Syria and several other issues. But it is unwilling to make concessions to Moscow to get it," Mark N. Katz, a professor of government and politics at George Mason University, wrote for CNN.
Swiss newspaper Le Temps believes that Obama's behavior at the talks was examined closely in the United States. The meeting came as a test for Obama, whom Mitt Romney - his wound-be rival at the election - criticizes for the lack of leader's qualities in solving the problems of foreign politics.
Meanwhile, the situation around the Syrian issue continues to aggravate. The British authorities forced the Russian vessel turn back home. The vessel was reportedly carrying a batch of Russian helicopters to Syria, Western news agencies said. However, Russia plans to send more vessels to Syria in the nearest future.