July 8, 2009

Obama – Putin Not in Love!

US President Barack Obama (2L) and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (2R) converse while having traditional Russian tea and  snacks on a terrace at Putin's residence outside Moscow in Novo-Ogarevo on July 7, 2009. Obama praised Vladimir Putin's "extraordinary work" as Russia's president and now prime minister, but admitted their two nations still do not agree on everything.           AFP PHOTO / RIA NOVOSTI / POOL / ALEXEY DRUZHININ (Photo credit should read ALEXEY DRUZHININ/AFP/Getty Images)

Apparently prompted by the eager Condi Rice (see paragraph 22), Dubya convinced himself before they had even met that Putin would become a best friend for life.

Of course, the quote from the first engagement at the Slovenian Summit in June of ’01 at the Brdo Castle in Slovenia is famous by now:

“I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straight forward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue. “I was able to get a sense of his soul. “

It was in that very first meeting Bush decided Putin had to come down to the ranch, leading to an intimate three day visit which included that famous pickup truck ride.

But that was then and this is now. This week, we saw a return to a more unremarkable get-acquainted process marked by the mundane realities of healthy distance; feeling other people other out; and, yes, skepticism for gamesmanship and power-tripping. Perhaps that’s why, as the NYT reported, Obama slipped not once, but twice, in referring to Putin, the enduring heavy in Russia, as (still) the country’s President.

The image above — one of dozens and dozens, I might add, that captures Bush and Putin (only too happy to indulge Bush’s fantasy) in an intimate grip — is the parting photo from that first Slovenia summit. The second image, as Obama engages the hard-nosed Putin, captures Barack at Putin’s dacha outside Moscow doing what Bush never did, which was start by breaking the ice.

(revised 4:20 pm PST)

(image 1: George Herbert/A.P. IMAGE 2: Novo-Ogarevo, July 7, 2009. ALEXEY DRUZHININ/AFP/Getty Images. linked pickup image: Crawford, Texas, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2001. Either AP Photo/Doug Mills or REUTERS/Win McNamee.)

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Michael Shaw
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