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Obama would save drowning Putin

U.S. President Barack Obama pauses during a joint news conference with South Korean President Park Geun-hye at the Blue House, Friday, April 25, 2014, in Seoul, South Korea. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

SEOUL: It’s official: even though they are involved in the worst East-West clash since the Cold War, Barack Obama would save Vladimir Putin from drowning.

Obama Friday delivered his answer to a question posed to Putin during a live television appearance earlier this month – would his U.S. rival come to his rescue?

Putin answered by saying that though he did not have a special personal relationship with Obama he thought the U.S. leader was “a decent and brave person.”

“And of course, he would.”

In a rare moment of humor at an alarming moment of the Ukraine crisis, Obama confirmed he would indeed throw the Russian leader a lifeline, when questioned by an American journalist.

“I absolutely would save Mr. Putin if he were drowning,” Obama said. “If anybody is out there drowning, I would save them.

“I used to be a pretty good swimmer, I grew up in Hawaii,” Obama said, adding with a rueful smile: “I am a little bit out of practice.”

South Koreans might have been puzzled by the question – given the national mourning over the loss of a ferry packed with high school children less than two weeks ago and the grim search for bodies in the upturned vessel.

In a news conference with South Korean President Park Geun-Hye, Obama also cast his own judgment on Putin’s character.

“Mr. Putin is not a stupid man,” Obama said, reasoning that the Russian leader had acknowledged that Western sanctions imposed as a result of Russia’s annexation of Crimea were having an impact on the Russian economy.

Even before the Ukraine showdown, Putin and Obama had a difficult relationship and had endured several photo ops after summits noted for stilted body language.

Obama once compared Putin to a “bored kid” slouching at the back of the class, and wondered whether the Kremlin chief’s public persona was just a “tough guy” act and a “shtick” to impress his domestic political constituency.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 26, 2014, on page 8.

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Summary

SEOUL: It's official: even though they are involved in the worst East-West clash since the Cold War, Barack Obama would save Vladimir Putin from drowning.

Putin answered by saying that though he did not have a special personal relationship with Obama he thought the U.S. leader was "a decent and brave person".

In a rare moment of humor at an alarming moment of the Ukraine crisis, Obama confirmed he would indeed throw the Russian leader a lifeline, when questioned by an American journalist.


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