St Petersburg High
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What Obama and Putin's increasingly distant relationship has to do with G-20 table settings.
If ever more proof was needed that no one really outgrows high school, the last-minute efforts to stave off a confrontation between the Sharks and the Jets — sorry, Russia and the US — at the G-20 summit in St Petersburg should be enough. If table settings are any indication, there has been no rapprochement between US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, who continue to be at odds over Syria, Edward Snowden and much else. Why, America's president likened Putin to a "bored kid in the back of the classroom", even throwing in a jab about his posture — a far cry from the bright-eyed Obama who spoke of a reset with the Kremlin. Their perfunctory meet-and-greet on Obama's arrival only cemented their "frenemy" relationship status, the smiles looked more like grimaces and the handshake, a test of strength.
Reportedly, the seating order at this summit was reshuffled to create a buffer zone between the cold-warring leaders. Instead of following the Russian alphabet, which would have placed Obama right by Putin's side, the English alphabet was adopted — thus staving off a potential showdown. These days, the two leaders are doing all they can to avoid each other, even cancelling a bilateral summit that was scheduled to take place before the G-20 meeting got under way — the first time in 50 years that a Washington-Moscow summit has been ditched.
This is hardly the first time, however, that heads of state have conducted relationships more like teenagers than ostensibly well-adjusted adults. Last year, for instance, Hungary's prime minister decided that the best channel to express his frustration with the IMF was Facebook, thus joining the ranks of the thousands of teens who've broken up with their partners over the social network.