The G-20 summit in Argentina was supposed to be part of the carefully choreographed diplomatic dance between two of the world’s most powerful leaders.
Instead, Russia’s aggressive action against Ukraine prompted President Donald Trump to cancel a planned meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, leaving Putin filling his summit dance card with other partners, Newsmax reported.
Putin met instead with Turkish President Recip Erdogan, who used the time to try to convince Putin to hold a summit on the situation in Syria’s Idlib province, where Russia-based Syrian forces are slowly squeezing the last pockets of resistance, Reuters reported.
Putin also tried to make friends with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is in the American diplomatic doghouse over the killing of a journalist at the Saudi consulate in Turkey.
Russian officials tossed the whole matter off as a political speed bump.
“If the domestic situation and the pressure from Russophobes like Ukraine and its sponsors prevents the U.S. president from developing normal ties with the Russian president … we will wait for another chance,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who added, “love can’t be forced.”
Putin and Trump did have an informal chat.
“As is typical at multilateral events, President Trump and the first lady had a number of informal conversations with world leaders at the dinner last night, including President Putin,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement, according to Politico.
Trump focused on the confrontation between Russia and Ukraine in which Russia seized three Ukrainian ships after opening fire on them and taking sailors prisoner, Putin said later.
“I answered his questions,” Putin said, according to Bloomberg. “He has his position on these issues and problems. I have mine.”
Putin was asked whether he thought Trump was afraid to meet him.
“I don’t think President Trump is wary of anything. He is a man of character, a very experienced man. He is a grown-up,” Putin replied.
Putin has said that American political infighting gets in the way of the effort to resolve Russian-American relations, The Washington Post reported.
“Playing the Russian card has become a convenient tool for solving internal political problems,” Putin said recently. “I hope it will end someday. Maybe it will happen in 2020 when the next U.S. presidential election is held and he will no longer have to constantly look back at those who engage in anti-Russian rhetoric.”
Differences between Putin and Trump run deeper than just between the two men.
On Saturday, Defense Secretary James Mattis criticized Russia’s actions against Ukraine.
Mattis said Moscow had shown “brazen contempt and dismissal” for a 2003 agreement “that allowed both Russian and Ukrainian ships free passage,” The Guardian reported.
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