David K. Li
President Obama and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, could
barely stand to look at each other in Peru on Sunday as they shared a
brief and chilly handshake.
Both men have good reason to be icy with each other.
Obama is likely still smarting from the humiliating ballot-box defeat
his party suffered two weeks ago in the presidential election, when
Donald Trump — an open admirer of Putin — pulled off a stunning upset.
Obama also could be miffed that suspected Russian hackers exposed
embarrassing confidential emails between Democratic bigwigs, which
political observers say helped Trump defeat Hillary Clinton.
Russia also has angered the Obama administration by taking sides in
the Syrian civil war, aiding despot President Bashar al-Assad.
Meanwhile, Putin must still be stewing over the continued US
sanctions against his country, which were payback for Moscow’s incursion
into Ukraine and have crippled his nation’s economy.
At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit later in the day in
Lima, Obama and Putin put aside their differences to huddle for about
four minutes, White House aides said.
While reporters were out of earshot, the two world leaders talked
about the Minsk Protocol, which has kept a fragile peace along the
Russia-Ukraine border, the White House said.
“The president urged President Putin to uphold Russia’s commitments
under the Minsk agreements, underscoring the US and our partners’
commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty,” a White House official said.
The men also spoke about the humanitarian crisis in Syria, the White House said.
“On Syria, the president noted the need for [US] Secretary [John]
Kerry and [Russian] Foreign Minister [Sergey] Lavrov to continue
pursuing initiatives, together with the broader international community,
to diminish the violence and alleviate the suffering of the Syrian
people,” the offical said.
Putin later told reporters he is committed to improving Moscow-Washington relations.
The Russian leader said he has spoken to Trump and that the
president-elect “reaffirmed his intent to normalize relations with
Russia,” and “I naturally said the same.”
Sunday was the last day of Obama’s final foreign trip as president.