international affairs

Obama Says He and Putin Aren’t Really That Awkward

Photo: Handout/Getty Images

During a press conference from the G20 Summit on Friday, President Barack Obama said he and Russian president Vladimir Putin had chatted on the sidelines of the summit’s plenary session and that they’re really not as awkward as everybody thinks. “It was a candid and constructive conversation which characterizes my relationship with him,” Obama said. “I know, as I’ve said before, everybody’s always trying to look for body language and all that, but the truth of the matter is, is that my interactions with him tend to be very straightforward.” He said the two mostly talked about Syria. “Mr. Snowden didn’t — did not come up beyond me saying that — re-emphasizing that where we have common interests, I think it’s important for the two of us to work together.”

As for Syria, Obama said he and Putin didn’t come to an agreement about how to proceed. “I said, listen, I don’t expect us to agree on this issue of chemical weapons use, although it is possible that after the U.N. inspector’s report, it may be more difficult for Mr. Putin to maintain his current positions about the evidence.” He went on to say, “We both agree that the underlying conflict can only be resolved through a political transition as envisioned by the Geneva I and Geneva II process. And so we need to move forward together, even if the U.S. and Russia and other countries disagree on this specific issue of how to respond to chemical weapons use.”

Putin, meanwhile, “called the meeting constructive, but he still opposes Obama’s call for military action in Syria over chemical weapons,” according to USA Today.

Obama said he planned to address the United States on Syria next Tuesday, but he spent much of Friday’s press conference fielding questions on the possibility of U.S. involvement there. One question he did not want to answer directly came from CNN’s Brianna Keilar, who asked whether he would go ahead with a strike in Syria even if Congress didn’t authorize one. “You know, our polling operations are pretty good. I tend to have a pretty good sense of what current popular opinion is,” Obama said. But he wouldn’t say definitively whether or not the United States would take military action.

Obama Says He and Putin Aren’t That Awkward