Obama describes Putin as 'like a bored kid'

WASHINGTON Fri Aug 9, 2013 6:21pm EDT

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at a news conference at the White House in Washington, August 9, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at a news conference at the White House in Washington, August 9, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Friday denied he has poor relations with Vladimir Putin after canceling their Moscow talks, but said the Russian president can sometimes appear "like a bored kid in the back of the classroom."

U.S.-Russian relations plunged to one of their lowest points since the Cold War this week after Russia granted temporary asylum to fugitive former U.S. spy contractor Edward Snowden. Obama retaliated by abruptly canceling a Moscow summit with Putin planned for early next month.

At a White House news conference on Friday, Obama insisted that he does not have bad personal relations with Putin. The two men had a testy meeting in June in Northern Ireland and from the photos of them at the time, it looked as if they would both rather have been somewhere else.

"I know the press likes to focus on body language, and he's got that kind of slouch, looking like the bored kid in the back of the classroom. But the truth is that when we're in conversations together, oftentimes it's very productive," Obama said.

Putin's sending of a telegram wishing former President George W. Bush well after a heart procedure this week was viewed by some Kremlin watchers as a sign that Putin was sending an implicit message to Obama.

The White House says Obama pulled out of the Moscow summit not just because of the Russian decision to grant asylum to Snowden, who is wanted in the United States to face espionage charges.

U.S. differences with Russia have piled up recently over Moscow's support for the Syrian government in that country's civil war, as well as human rights concerns and other grievances.

There was no immediate response from Moscow to Obama's description of the Russian president. But at a news conference in Washington after talks on Friday between the Russian and U.S. foreign policy and defense chiefs, the Russians emphasized how positive the meeting had been. They even invited the Americans to participate in a tank competition later this year.

"We don't have any Cold War. Instead we have close relations," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. "Edward Snowden did not overshadow our discussions."

U.S. TO 'TAKE A PAUSE'

Obama said the United States will "take a pause, reassess where it is that Russia is going" and calibrate the relationship to take into account the areas where they can agree and acknowledge that they have differences.

"Frankly, on a whole range of issues where we think we can make some progress, Russia has not moved," Obama said.

"I think there's always been some tension in the U.S.-Russian relationship after the fall of the Soviet Union," he said.

Obama did resolve one issue that has been debated in the United States. He said American athletes will in fact compete in the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, in spite of Russia's anti-gay propaganda law.

"I do not think it's appropriate to boycott the Olympics," Obama said.

He said the best way to combat the law is for gay and lesbian athletes to do well in the Sochi Games.

"One of the things I'm really looking forward to is maybe some gay and lesbian athletes bringing home the gold or silver or bronze, which would, I think, go a long way in rejecting the kind of attitudes that we're seeing there," he said. "And if Russia doesn't have gay or lesbian athletes, then, it'll probably make their team weaker."

U.S. and Russian senior officials sought to maintain a working relationship despite the tensions when they met in Washington on Friday.

The two countries agreed on the need to convene a Syrian peace conference in Geneva as soon as possible at the meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

(Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by David Brunnstrom and Sandra Maler)

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Comments (90)
AlkalineState wrote:
“I know the press likes to focus on body language, and he’s got that kind of slouch, looking like the bored kid in the back of the classroom. But the truth is that when we’re in conversations together, oftentimes it’s very productive,” Obama said.

Bored kid with a bottle of Polonium 210. Putin is a freaky dude. Got him a whole jail full of pussy riot and other critics now. What he does with his collection of prisoners, who knows.

Aug 09, 2013 5:47pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Reuters1945 wrote:
“President Barack Obama on Friday…..said the Russian president can sometimes appear “like a bored kid in the back of the classroom.”

The Dear Leader just cannot seem to let go and bury the hatchet.

There comes a time when one wonders if these insulting statements indirectly aimed at Putin, are his own idea or what his armies of so-called “advisors”, White House sycophants, stooges, assorted flunkies and “yes men & women” tell him is the “smart” way to go.

Whether such statements are his own idea or he is foolish enough to make such statements based on the pig headed advice of others- he is infinitely wrong on both counts.

He still has two years to grow up, cease all the “tit for tat” childish antics, and start acting Presidential.

However, I would not “bet the farm” on that happening.

Aug 09, 2013 5:55pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
pilisugsug wrote:
For Obama to carry his agenda on the Jay Leno shows just how weak he really is. It seems to me that Obama is all show. First of all Obama should stay out of Russian politics. They don’t want western morals contaminating their country. And I can’t blame them. We are the most hated country in the world, and for good reason. And as far as accepting gays life style, I would say that main stream America does not. Obama doesn’t speak for us. His proclamation calling the month of June gay lesbian etc. is a joke. It’s more like a zoo than any thing else.

Aug 09, 2013 6:03pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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