MOSCOW–Russian President Vladimir Putin currently has no plans for a bilateral meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama at the G-20 summit next week but will greet him and “shake his hand,” a Kremlin official said Friday. With U.S.-Russia tensions reaching a new peak over the Syrian crisis and Moscow’s decision to give asylum to U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, Putin’s foreign policy advisor Yury Ushakov appeared compelled to note that Obama will be treated just like any other leader. “Putin will naturally greet Obama among other leaders, shake his hand and then we will see,” Ushakov told reporters ahead of the Group of 20 summit Russia hosts next week in Saint Petersburg. The preparations for the summit come as Obama is mulling possible military action against Russia’s ally Syria following a suspected large-scale chemical attack against civilians last week.
At the briefing, Ushakov reeled off a long list of the summit’s participants who Putin planned to meet for either full-blown or brief meetings on the sidelines of the summit. But Obama was not among them. “A meeting with Obama is not planned,” he said, admitting that the two men will still have a chance to speak to each other at the summit. “Whether it will be standing up or in chairs, I do not know,” he said. A bilateral meeting in Saint-Petersburg was not scheduled “because we and the Americans planned a full-scale state visit (by Obama) to Moscow, which, as you know, is not happening,” Ushakov explained. Obama scrapped plans to come to Moscow after Russia gave temporary asylum to Snowden despite repeated protests by Washington which wants him extradited. The two leaders’ previous meeting at the G-8 summit at the Lough Erne golf resort in Northern Ireland in June was noticeably frosty and ended in PR disaster, with journalists scrutinizing their body language and pointing to their apparent unease with each other. Afterwards Obama admitted Putin looked like “the bored kid in the back of the classroom.”