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Despite Cold War-like conflict, Barack Obama would save drowning Vladimir Putin

Friday, 25 April 2014 - 5:36pm IST | Place: Seoul | Agency: AFP
  • US-Russia Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and US President Barack Obama (right) AFP

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

Obama on Friday delivered his answer to a question posed to Putin during a live television appearance earlier this month -- would his US rival come to his rescue?

Putin answered by saying that though he did not have a special personal relationship with Obama he thought the US leader was "a decent and brave person". "And of course, he would."

In a rare moment of humour at an alarming moment of the Ukraine crisis, Obama confirmed he would indeed throw the Russian leader a lifeline, when questioned by a US 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, before 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 judgement 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.




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