News / Europe

    G20 Planners 'Tweak Seating Order' to Keep Obama, Putin Apart

    U.S. President Barack Obama (R) listens to Russian President Vladimir Putin after their bilateral meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico on June 18, 2012, on the sidelines of the G20 summit.
    U.S. President Barack Obama (R) listens to Russian President Vladimir Putin after their bilateral meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico on June 18, 2012, on the sidelines of the G20 summit.
    RFE/RL
    It's often the quiet moves that tell you about the real atmosphere of relations between heads of state.

    With the United States and Russia at loggerheads over issues from the civil war in Syria to fugitive U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin have nonetheless made some efforts to cast their relationship as workable.

    Who’s Sitting Where?

    And yet, as the two prepare to join other world leaders in Saint Petersburg for a G20 summit this week (September 5-6), a report in a pro-Kremlin paper says they will not even sit near each other.

    "Izvestia" reported on September 4 that the organizers of the G20 summit in Saint Petersburg have rewritten the seating plan with the Latin instead of Cyrillic alphabet to ensure that Putin and Obama are not placed near each other.

    The presidents of Russia (Rossiya in Russian) and the United States (SShA) would have been almost side-by-side, separated only by U.S. ally Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, if the seating plan had been written in the host country’s language.

    In English, however, Russia and the United States’ place names would be separated by South Africa, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. "The seating arrangement will be according to the English alphabet," Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told "Izvestia."

    The apparent revelation comes as observers are scanning for signs that Obama and Putin could talk on the fringes of the summit.

    It wouldn’t be the first time summit seating plans have been politicized. At a NATO Summit in Prague in 2002, NATO officials reportedly rewrote the seating arrangement in French in order to isolate then Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma at the far end of the table.

    And there are strong signals that Washington-Moscow ties are in a rut. After Russia granted former U.S. intelligence contractor Snowden temporary asylum, Obama cancelled a bilateral meeting with Putin due in Moscow ahead of the G20 summit.

    The decision followed the Kremlin’s crackdown on protesters, as well as disagreements on how to resolve the civil war raging in Syria which has killed over 100,000 people and displaced millions.

    Permanent UN Security Council member Russia has consistently opposed any international military action against Syria, saying the situation would not improve after the toppling of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

    Workable Relationship

    And yet, both Russia and Washington’s leaders say their relationship is workable. Early last month, Obama was quoted as saying he did not have a "bad personal relationship" with Putin, although Obama went on to refer to the Russian president’s "slouch" and said it made him look "like a bored kid in the back of the classroom."

    Putin seems philosophical.

    "President Obama hasn't been elected by the American people in order to be pleasant to Russia. And your humble servant hasn't been elected by the people of Russia to be pleasant to someone either," he said in an interview with the Associated Press and Russia's Channel One TV on September 4.

    "We work, we argue about some issues. We are human. Sometimes one of us gets vexed. But I would like to repeat once again that global mutual interests form a good basis for finding a joint solution to our problems."

    -- Tom Balmforth

    You May Like

    US Lawmakers Vow to Continue Immigrant Program for Afghan Interpreters

    Congressional inaction threatens funding for effort which began in 2008 and has allowed more than 20,000 interpreters, their family members to immigrate to US

    Brexit's Impact on Russia Stirs Concern

    Some analysts see Brexit aiding Putin's plans to destabilize European politics; others note that an economically unstable Europe is not in Moscow's interests

    US to Train Cambodian Government on Combating Cybercrime

    Concerns raised over drafting of law, as critics fear cybercrime regulations could be used to restrict freedom of expression and stifle political dissent

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Expat but still a Pat from: Russia
    September 04, 2013 11:39 PM
    Obama's remarks were neither constructive or helpful to the situation. World leaders should lead by example and not allow differences to discourage discussion.
    Yet perhaps both leaders should remember that one should keep their friends close, and their enemies still closer.

    by: Expat but still a Pat from: Russia
    September 04, 2013 10:17 PM
    Obama's comments were childish and not befitting a president. Regardless of their disagreements on Snowden and Syria, it should be remembered that one should keep their friends close, and their enemies closer.

    by: Markt
    September 04, 2013 4:50 PM
    This is not new, and certainly not unusual. In 1952, it took both sides of the N. Korean/American delegates months to bicker and argue over seating arrangements and placement of table accouterments before both sides would even give serious discussion over ending the Korean Conflict. It is still very comforting to know that both sides (Russian and American) are still talking, even if it is to agree to disagree...the lines of communication remain open. It is a positive sign. They are, after all, human beings, and both have the interests of their respective countries to think of first and foremost.

    by: Helmy Elsaid
    September 04, 2013 2:56 PM
    Keep them apart.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roari
    X
    June 28, 2016 10:33 AM
    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora