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

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

John the XXIII and John Paul II will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square on April 27 More

Thailand Reacts to Plots Targeting Israelis

Authorities hope arrest of two Lebanese suspects will disrupt plot to attack young Israeli tourists More

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

'Once Upon a Forest' takes viewers deep into heart of tropical rainforest 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.
Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Churchi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 22, 2014 4:14 PM
On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Robotic Mission Kicks Up Lunar Dust

A robotic mission to the moon was deliberately crashed onto the lunar surface late last week, but not before scientists had collected data gathered by the spacecraft which was designed to self-destruct. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports on the preliminary findings of the craft, called LADEE - an acronym for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.
Video

Video Boko Haram Claims Responsibility for Bombing in Nigerian Capital

The Nigerian militant group known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a bombing in the capital on April 14th that killed 75 people. In the video message, Abubakar Shekau, the man who says he ordered the bombing, says nothing about the mass abduction of more than 100 teenage girls, most of whom are still missing. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Abuja.
Video

Video Ukraine Developments Hang Over Obama Trip to Asia

President Barack Obama's trip to Asia this week comes as concerns over Beijing's territorial ambitions are growing in the region. Those concerns have been compounded by Russia's recent actions in Ukraine and the possibility that Chinese strategists might be looking to Crimea as a model for its territorial disputes with its neighbors. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid