Obama And Putin’s Awkward Encounter

Obama and Putin

With Vladimir Putin in France along with other world leaders to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Invasion, there was much speculation about whether or not he and President Obama would end up meeting at some point. Based on how things are going so far, I wouldn’t be too optimistic:

The leaders were attending a luncheon hosted by French President Francois Hollande after the morning’s D-Day ceremonies. The two leaders were “at times close enough to touch but did not speak with or acknowledge each other in the pool’s presence,” according to a White House pool report.

Obama and Putin were separated by just three people when all the leaders attending the lunch gathered for a family photo, according to the report. Their lack of interaction became even more pronounced as the leaders shuffled around for a re-shoot. Here’s the scene:

After the photograph, everyone began moving off but for some reason they got called back to reassemble in the same positions and take it again. Potus made a point of jovially greeting other leaders, kissing Merkel on both cheeks, but he and Putin seemed to go out of their way not to encounter each other. As the leaders began making their way toward the chateau, Potus lingered to make sure Queen Elizabeth was okay while Putin moved ahead chatting with Hollande. At one point as the crowd moseyed slowly toward the building, Obama was right behind Putin and could have tapped him on the shoulder if he wanted to but instead focused his attention elsewhere as if not noticing who was there.

As it turns out, Obama and Putin did meet later during the luncheon, sort of:

President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin shared what the White House called “an informal conversation” Friday on the sidelines of a Normandy lunch marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

The brief talk, which lasted 10 to 15 minutes, according to deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, was the first face-to-face meeting the two have had since the crisis in Ukraine frayed already tense ties between the United States and Russia.

Rhodes described it as “an informal conversation — not a formal bilateral meeting” and said that the White House would later provide a readout of the discussion.

So they talked, but they didn’t really talk-talk.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. John Peabody says:

    Ah, I’m just grumpy enough to be irritated that the two are not wearing ties in the picture above. Or is that from another event?

  2. That’s from another event, their last face-to-face meeting in Russia last year I believe

  3. al-Ameda says:

    I absolutely love that picture Doug. The expressions are so revealing. This picture would be great for a captioning contest.

    I can see it now:
    Moderator: “Okay now you two, say you’re sorry and shake hands … oh, come on now …”

  4. Tillman says:

    Is it odd for the Russian premier to visit the site of D-Day, or was he just there because a bunch of world leaders would be there anyway?

  5. Matt Bernius says:

    Given the critical role the Soviets played in breaking the Nazi’s in WWII and that, to some degree, D-Day is celebrates the “turn” of the war, it makes sense for them to be there as a past Ally and a critical participant in the war.

  6. michael reynolds says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    Indeed. The Russians have earned a place at any WW2 celebration.

    And of course it would be churlish to point out that had they not been busy purging their officer corps and stabbing the Poles in the back and making common cause with Hitler while the British stood alone, the war would either not have taken place or ended much earlier.

  7. michael reynolds says:

    Always bearing in mind that had we not had our heads all the way up our non-interventionist asses we could have kept the war from starting as well. But hey, at least we turned a profit and didn’t lose any cities or civilians, so, we win!

  8. PAUL HOOSON says:

    These two really don’t like each other, but I admire President Obama for standing up for what believes is right. But, I’d like to see relations quickly improve between the U.S. and Russia, and for Putin to behave like a more responsible member of the international community.

    This Russian government is an oligarchy where the state-owned oil giant, Gazprom runs this government. Putin’s own share in this world’s largest oil company might be worth up to $15 billion dollars. This oil company rules by restrictions on free speech and free elections, limiting the ability to challenge the power of this huge oil company.

  9. bill says:

    @Tillman: enemy of my enemy…..!