After he and Obama greeted each other soberly and shook hands for the cameras, Obama flashed a smile as the two turned to the cameras. They chatted briefly and Obama bounded into the meeting.
Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said Obama planned to make his case on the margins of the meeting to gauge the level of “political and diplomatic support” the U.S. could expect from its allies and key partners.
To that end, Obama will hold a bilateral meeting with French President Francois Hollande on the second and final day of the summit. He’ll also meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Rhodes said France has indicated “potential interest in participating in an effort to hold the Syrian regime accountable.”
Obama got a friendly take from Abe, who said before a meeting with the president that he looked forward “to continuously and closely working with you to improve the situation on the ground.”
The White House said Obama plans to “work the Hill” during the trip and Wednesday placed phone calls to a bipartisan group of senators. The White House said Obama was canceling a planned fundraising trip to California next week so he could be in Washington during the coming congressional debate.
On Thursday, Obama seemingly had his hands full dancing around Putin.
Dinner for the leaders got off to a late start – and even then a division between Obama and Putin emerged.
Putin arrived at Peterhof, the grand castle, shortly after 9 p.m., strolling down the carpet and chatting animatedly via interpreters with Argentine President Cristina Kirchner – the two of them heading up a delegation that included Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Obama arrived nearly 30 minutes later, walking down the long path by himself before briskly stepping in to join his fellow leaders.
The White House said later that Obama met first with Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff, who reportedly postponed an advance trip to the U.S. by aides to make arrangements for a planned presidential trip to the U.S., amid anger that the National Security Agency picked up her phone calls and emails.