President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin may meet face-to-face Friday for the first time since the two leaders found themselves at odds over the crisis in Ukraine. But if they do cross paths, it will be more by chance than due to an arranged meeting.
As part of the celebrations for the 70th anniversary of D-Day, Obama and Putin are both invited to attend a leaders luncheon hosted by French President Francois Hollande on Friday, and they will both participate in an international ceremony for the historic day. The two leaders last met in September at the G20 summit on Putin’s home turf of St. Petersburg, Russia.
It comes at a time when relations between the two countries and the two presidents have become frosty. The nicest thing the two leaders have had to say about each other recently is that they are fairly certain that the other guy would come to their rescue if they were drowning. Earlier today, President Obama described his relationship with Putin as “businesslike.” Other than that, it has been diplomatic jabs.
The lunch will be held at the Chateau de Benouville, an 18th century mansion in the Ouistreham area of France, and will be attended by other world leaders and heads of state, including British Prime Minster David Cameron, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and Queen Elizabeth II, who was a teenager during World War II. The leaders will then head to the international ceremony on Sword Beach, one of the five beaches where allied forces landed 70 years ago this week to fight the Nazis.
The White House said Obama has no scheduled bilateral meeting with Putin, but Obama conceded that he will likely run into the Russian president in Normandy on Friday.
“I’m sure I’ll see him. He’s going to be there,” Obama said today.
Obama appeared to soften his tone today, telling reporters the U.S. and Russia may be able “to rebuild some of the trust that’s been shattered during this past year.” But he added that it would “take quite some time.”
Putin does have planned meetings with two other leaders – Hollande and Cameron.
Despite their disagreements over the situation in Ukraine, Obama said he understood why Putin would be invited to partake in the D-Day anniversary ceremonies.
“I think it’s important for us to acknowledge the role that Russia played during World War II, and that’s part of what Normandy is about,” he said.
Could the two presidents end up sitting at the same table? We won’t know the seating arrangements until Friday, but Obama and Putin may very well be dining on the same cuisine at the D-Day luncheon.