A couple of brief encounters between U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin during the APEC summit in Beijing spoke volumes about the chilly state of relations between the U.S. and Russia. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) A couple of brief encounters between U.S. President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, during an Asia-Pacific summit in Beijing on Tuesday (November 11) spoke volumes about the chilly state of relations between the United States and Russia. With the two men crossing paths twice this week, first in Beijing and later at a G20 summit in Brisbane, Australia, there was little chance they could avoid interacting on the international stage - and with the eyes of the world press and fellow leaders upon them. Obama and Putin have never had anything close to personal chemistry, and with tensions high especially over Russia's role in the conflict in Ukraine, there was little warmth on display in their informal contacts at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. The two were said to have briefly spoken to one another on the sidelines of APEC at Monday (November 10) night's welcoming events, with officials on both sides saying they did not delve into issues that divide them. When the summit opened in a sprawling convention center at a lake outside Beijing on Tuesday morning, Chinese President Xi Jinping walked in with Obama and Putin, both unsmiling, on either side of him. "It's beautiful, isn't it?" Putin was overheard saying in English in Obama's general direction, referring to the ornate conference room. "Yes," Obama replied, coldly, according to journalists who witnessed the scene. The three leaders stopped at Xi's seat at the meeting table later that day. Putin reached out and clapped Obama on the shoulder. Obama barely responded. The two then took their seat to Xi's left and right. Later, Obama and Putin were spotted in businesslike conversation, trailed by a translator, as they entered a hall for the leaders' summit's "family photo". The two leaders would seem to have much to discuss but little chance of finding common ground. In addition to Ukraine, they are deeply at odds over Russia's backing for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Communicating mostly by telephone over the past year, their contacts have been described as frustratingly tense as relations between Washington and Moscow have fallen to a post-Cold War low. Obama has insisted that Russia stop supporting pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine while Putin has dismissed the sanctions that the United States and the European Union have slapped on Moscow as counterproductive.