The D-Day remembrance ceremonies at Normandy on Friday also served as the backdrop to a number of high-profile – and highly awkward meetings — between the assembled world leaders. Most of them involving Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The two meetings that most observers were wondering about did indeed come to pass. Putin was photographed speaking to Ukrainian President-elect Petro Poroshenko for the first time since his election. (German Chancellor Angela Merkel was there, too.) Putin also had an "informal discussion" with President Obama "on the margins" of a lunch held for dozens of world leaders attending the ceremonies.
According to the BBC, the Poroshenko and Putin have agreed to discuss a ceasefire in Ukraine, under Merkel and EU's supervision. (Even though Putin continues to insist Russian troops aren't even there.) The momentous meeting was really only moments long: about fifteen minutes according to the BBC or only one minute per USAToday. A French official said that "the conversation took place on possible measures to de-escalate [the crisis], including how Moscow could recognize the election of Poroshenko... "The details of a ceasefire will also be discussed in coming days."
The meeting with Obama also seems like it could bode well for Western ties with Russia, even though the two refused to share a meal with the French president earlier this week.
Though he previously had no plans to see Putin, President Barack Obama also met with the Russian president on the sidelines Friday for 10 to 15 minutes. "It was an informal conversation — not a formal bilateral meeting," said Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser.
Now that Poroshenko is in place, and Europe and the U.S. have shown they are determined to back him up, Putin may decide that softening his stance could be in his favor. On Thursday, the Group of Seven (G7) leaders are meeting to discuss the possibility of further sanctions against Russia, USA Today reports:
The demands include an end to arms shipments across the Ukraine border and the cessation of support for violent separatists in southern and eastern Ukraine.The G-7 members also demanded that Putin recognize Poroshenko's new government. Poroshenko will be sworn in as Ukraine's president on Saturday.
Or maybe being surrounded by all the reminders of the last continent-wide war has everyone in the mood to make friends instead of fighting.