While Russian media focused on covering the agreements that have been reached at the G8 summit, Western press singled out issues that remain unresolved.
The words “differences,” “isolation” and “disagreement” showed up time and again in Western media’s coverage of the June 17 meeting between the Russian and American presidents on the sidelines of the G8 summit in Northern Ireland, where, according to Western journalists, the atmosphere was “icy” or “cool.” The Russian press chose to play up the agreements that have been reached instead. In reality, the results of the talks on a wide range of issues could have been interpreted either way.
The Washington Post pointed out that Obama and Putin failed to resolve their differences over Syria. According to The New York Times, Obama and Putin were at odds on Syria, but both still wanted the sides in the conflict to negotiate. The author noted that both leaders appeared tense and discomfited after the two hour-long meeting.
“President Obama and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, disagreed about how to respond to rising bloodshed in Syria and called only for negotiations between the government and rebels that are given little chance of success,” the article said.
The Los Angeles Times reported that presidents Obama and Putin shared an icy encounter over Syria. The paper noted that U.S. officials view Russian President Vladimir Putin as a major hurdle in their drive to force Syrian President Bashar Assad out of power.
British broadsheet The Guardian said that “Obama and Putin were at odds over Syria after a cool exchange at the G8 summit.”
According to the article, the talks “ended with a stiff exchange of diplomatic pleasantries.”
In line with the tone set by other English-language media, Bloomberg and Reuters focused on Putin’s isolation at the G8 summit. “Putin faces isolation over Syria as G8 ratchets up pressure,” Reuters wrote.
Bloomberg went even further, saying that “in a public split rare at global summits, some Western leaders gathered for the Group of Eight industrial nations publicly rebuked Putin for backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.”
The Wall Street Journal described the talks between Putin and Obama as a clash over Assad’s fate. “President Barack Obama and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin clashed openly over Syria as world leaders began a summit here Monday, sharply underscoring deepening differences over the civil war,” the paper reported.
Almost all Western media quoted Putin as saying “Of course, our opinions do not coincide.”
In their turn, the Russian media took a calmer approach, focusing on agreements the parties managed to achieve.
Russian daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta’s headline emphasized neutrality: “Putin and Obama meet on neutral ground.”
“Moscow and Washington have decided to launch new mechanisms for economic cooperation, including contacts at the level of Russian prime minister and U.S. vice president. Russia’s accession to the WTO and the repeal of the Jackson–Vanik Amendment have expanded opportunities for trade and investment,” the paper said.
RIA Novosti noted that Russia and the United States had agreed to galvanize peace talks on a settlement in Syria and push both sides there to sit down at the negotiation table as part of an international conference in Geneva.
The news agency’s headlines also emphasized the decisions made: “Putin and Obama decide to activate talks on Syria;” “Russia and United States find new formats for dialogue.”
Russian TV channels focused on the outlook for cooperation between the two countries. Russia and the United States will continue to press for a peaceful settlement of the Syrian conflict, Channel One said.
Vesti reported that Putin and Obama had agreed to move forward on “sensitive issues.”
However, Kommersant, one of Russia’s most respected newspapers, was more reserved in its assessment of the meeting. In an article titled “Caution at highest level,” it said that “no breakthrough had been made.”
“The gestures were reasonably creative, but there were no concessions on the subject of America’s missile defense in Europe, which requires concessions only and no creativity whatsoever. There were no changes on Syria, either,” the paper said.