A CNN panel addressed President Joe Biden’s first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling it “awkward” and “strange.”
Wolf Blitzer began the commentary after showing video of reporters clamoring to get photos of the meeting — and security’s subsequent attempts to remove them from the room. (RELATED: ‘I Do Seriously Wonder Why’: Dana Perino Says Biden’s White House Elevated Putin Meeting By Calling It A ‘Summit’)
“That was a pretty awkward photo opportunity at the start of this meeting,” Blitzer began, noting that the audio was difficult to hear but he could make out Putin’s translator saying he hoped for a productive meeting.
“I did see the face of Putin — he looked very stern,” Blitzer continued.
“Stern? I thought he almost looked sullen,” said CNN chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward added, noting that the interaction had been short on the small talk that was standard for such meetings. “It was extraordinary. There was no congeniality — not that we expected them to be hugging it out. But neither side was talking to the other. They were both sitting there. Putin slightly like this, very stern. It was very uncomfortable, frankly. Basic silence, and few words about having a productive discussion.”
Ward explained that in such meetings it was customary for even leaders who did not get along to “go through the motions” of small talk — and that, she said, did not happen between Biden and Putin. “It felt very uncomfortable,” she said. (RELATED: Reporters Get Physical In Scramble To Get A Closer Look At Biden, Putin)
Jim Sciutto went on to compare Putin to a teenager who had been dragged along to an event he did not want to attend, saying, “No eye contact. Putin almost looked like a teenager brought to a dinner by his parents, and he didn’t want to be there, legs apart. But that’s message-sending.”
Sciutto also noted that at the previous summit, when Putin met with former President Donald Trump, the tone had been much more congenial.