Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, once again had a sideline meeting at an international summit—this time, at the G20 in Hangzhou, China. Once again, their conversation is unlikely to resolve that which they discussed.
Obama told reporters in Hangzhou on September 5 that the two leaders discussed ongoing negotiations between their top diplomats over Syria.
… Obama warned that the current situation in Syria, in which he said Moscow’s ally Damascus is bombing opposition forces “with impunity,” is strengthening the ability of extremist groups to recruit new members.
The U.S. president said he also spoke with Putin about Ukraine and the urgency of implementing the Minsk agreement. He said he made clear to the Russian leader that until the Minsk accord is implemented, Washington “will not pull down sanctions.”
Obama said the meeting was “constructive but not conclusive.” He said, “We will see whether Putin, despite talking about wanting a negotiated solution, is comfortable with a constant low-grade conflict on the Russian-Ukraine border.”
The war in Syria has been ongoing since March 2011; the conflict in Ukraine, since December 2013. (Pro-Russian gunmen seized government buildings in Crimea in February the following year.)
Obama also warned against an “ ‘arms race’ in cyberspace.” United States officials believe that Russian hackers are responsible for the recent Democratic National Committee breach, which some fear was intended to influence the upcoming presidential election. Russia has since said that it, too, was hacked.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov, meanwhile, said that the meeting “went longer than expected.”
Not unlike the conflicts discussed.