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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

US congressional delegation initiates $84 million Agent Orange cleanup project More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid