White House Says President Obama and Vladimir Putin Will Meet Next Week

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and President Obama at the G20 summit in 2013 in St. Petersburg. Credit Alexey Kudenko/Host Photo Agency, via Getty Images
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and President Obama at the G20 summit in 2013 in St. Petersburg. Credit Alexey Kudenko/Host Photo Agency, via Getty Images

The White House announced on Thursday that President Obama will meet next week with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, ending a long period in which the American leader refused to meet with his counterpart from the Kremlin.

Mr. Putin had requested the meeting, said Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, and considering the significant issues involving Ukraine and Syria, “it makes sense for President Obama to sit down with his counterpart and see if he can get greater clarity about Russia’s intentions inside of Ukraine.”

With Russia sending more military forces to Syria to prop up the autocratic government of President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s four-year civil war, Mr. Earnest said a meeting between American and Russian leaders might help determine “whether or not they’re willing to at least consider President Obama’s advice when it comes to reinforcing their military support for the Assad regime.”

Mr. Obama and Mr. Putin will sit down in New York at the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly. Administration officials had said privately on Wednesday that the president had decided to agree to a meeting with Mr. Putin if it could be arranged, but then said that it had not been finalized.

The announcement ended a debate inside the administration about whether such a meeting might inadvertently serve to embolden Mr. Putin. In the end, officials indicated that Mr. Obama decided to take that risk in hopes of using the opportunity to press the Russian leader on Ukraine and Syria.

White House officials said the core message of the meeting would be Mr. Obama’s insistence that Russia live up to the terms of the cease-fire in Ukraine negotiated in Minsk, the capital of neighboring Belarus. Citing Russia’s economic problems and attributing them to American and European sanctions levied over its intervention in Ukraine, Mr. Earnest said the meeting in New York would not undermine the international community’s isolation of Moscow.

“That’s not going to change because of one in-person conversation,” Mr. Earnest said.

Mr. Obama canceled a summit meeting with Mr. Putin in 2013 after Russia gave shelter to Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked documents. After Russia annexed Crimea and supported a pro-Russian separatist uprising in eastern Ukraine last year, Mr. Obama limited his contacts even further.

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SOURCE: N.Y. Times – Peter Baker and Michael R. Gordon

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