Diplomatic musical chairs: Russian protocol officials found a way to put

a good distance between Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin at the G20

Summit now proceeding in St. Petersburg: English rather than Russian.



G20 Chairs 'Linguistically Rearranged' to Keep Putin and Obama Apart (Izvestia, Russia)


"If there had been 'Russian seating,' Putin and Obama would have been sitting practically next to one another - separated only by Saudi Arabia King Abdullah, who also supports military operations against the Assad regime by the U.S. and its allies. So in the end, organizers settled on 'English seating.' This way, the Russian and U.S. leaders were separated by five heads of state: Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey and the United Kingdom."


By Pyotr Kozlov, Anastasia Kashevarova and Elena Teslova


Translated By John Amor


September 6, 2013


Russia - Izvestia - Original Article (Russian)

Putin welcomes Obama to the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg: Luckily, the Google Glass mindreader is not yet available.


RUSSIA TODAY VIDEO: Will G20 Summit heal the rifts over Syria?, Sept. 5, 00:02:24RealVideo

To ease discomfort for the heads of State, protocol officials have opted to use the English alphabet in favor of Russian to decide the G20 seating arrangements.


Due to deteriorating relations between Russia and the United States over the Syrian issue and the scandal involving U.S. intelligence informant Edward Snowden, the St. Petersburg “Big 20” Summit organizing committee has seated Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama on opposite sides of the table.


G20 organizers told Izvestia that from the outset, they had originally been looking at two seating arrangements for the heads of state: one that corresponded to the English alphabet, and one following the Russian. Normally, the matter is decided according to the alphabet of the country organizing the summit. Thus, if there had been “Russian seating,” Putin and Obama would have been sitting practically next to one another - separated only by Saudi Arabia King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, who also supports military operations against the Assad regime by the U.S. and its allies. So in the end, organizers settled on “English seating.” This way, the Russian and U.S. leaders were separated by five heads of state: Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey and the United Kingdom.


“Seating at the G20 will be according to the English alphabet,” Russian press secretary Dmitri Peskov confirmed to Izvestia.

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The seating of state leaders in alphabetical order is traditional for such events. Vladimir Shevchenko, head of protocol for both USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev and Russia's first president, Boris Yeltsin, says seating arrangements may change from one forum to the next because country names are spelled differently in different languages. For instance, "Germany" is written "Германия" (Germania) in Russian, and "Allemagne" in French.


Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak recalled in a conversation with Izvestia that at the 2012 G20 in Mexico, Putin and Obama were neighbors at the meeting table, and availed themselves of the opportunity to repeatedly talk to each other in English.


At the same time, people who spoke with Izvestia emphasized that the issue of seating arrangements for leaders at international forums is always somewhat political, and takes into account "personal chemistry." Seating order can also be changed to reflect a country’s position. So the decision to seat Obama further from Putin was logical, says Dmitri Suslov, deputy director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics in St Petersburg. Nevertheless, he believes a meeting between the two presidents, even if "on the hoof," in necessary and is likely to happen. Given the strong probability of a strike on Syria, they will need to agree on "modalities of cooperation" in these conditions.

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“It is no secret that Obama and Putin have no great affinity for one another. In the current atmosphere of controversy over Syria, it would not be too pleasant for either of them to be constantly seated together," Suslov says. “At the same time, both leaders are pragmatists. And over recent years, relations have moved along a logical path of selective pragmatic cooperation. As such, I do not rule out the possibility that a brief encounter between the leaders might be held.”


Nikolai Zlobin, president of Washington's Center on Global Interests, believes that even if even a brief encounter doesn't take place, in any event, it will likely occur far from the camera lens.


“The protocol people may arrange things so that at some point, world media can film Putin and Obama side by said. But does Putin want to sit next to Obama? Does Putin want such photographs appearing in the media?,” Zlobin wonders aloud.


In response to a question from Izvestia on the possibility of introducing changes to the official agenda on the day of the summit, one presidential administration official answered "no," explaining that this had all been agreed to almost a year ago, and all final decisions had been “confirmed down to the last detail.”


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All experts questioned by Izvestia agreed that in parallel with the official themes of the summit, the issue of Syria would be the main topic at all multilateral and bilateral meetings between heads of state and other heads of delegations.


It was earlier reported that on the margins of the G20, Vladimir Putin is scheduled to meet with the leaders of China, Spain, Italy, Japan, and the prime ministers of Great Britain and Turkey. A separate meeting with the U.S. leader has not been scheduled, but it is nevertheless possible that the two would talk on the sidelines of the summit, for which “they will have plenty of opportunity,” as presidential aide Yuri Ushakov said on August 30.


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Posted By Worldmeets.US Sept. 5, 2013, 11:29pm