No Frowns at Bush-Putin Talks
(AP) - At a troubled time in U.S.-Russian relations, there were no frowns when Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush got together for their last time as presidents. In fact, they wound up dancing together.
That's right, dancing.
There was a Cossack chorus and folk dancing during entertainment over dinner. Putin and Bush made their way to the stage and took part in a traditional dance, White House press secretary Dana Perino said. "They are comfortable with each other in less formal settings," she said.
While Bush and Putin relaxed, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was at a table with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, presumably going over business for the presidents' talks Sunday.
Six tables with six seats each were arranged in a long rectangular room. Bush and his wife, Laura, sat next to each other. Putin put himself at Bush's side. Dmitry Medvedev, Putin's hand-picked successor, sat next to the first lady. Putin's wife and Medvedev's wife were not seen.
What did they eat? Here's what the menu read:
Venison fillet with vegetable salad and pickled wild mushrooms with raspberry sauce; pancakes with red caviar and trout; veal loin with baked potatoes and red currant sauce; kulebyaka with salmon and king crab meat; and berry pie with ice cream. (A Google search says kulebyaka is a puff pastry dish.)
Bush and Putin greeted each other with a warm handshake and smiles as they met at Putin's retreat on acres of rolling woodland that stop at the shores of the Black Sea.
Putin took his American visitor on a walking tour down to the water. Laura Bush trailed a few steps behind so photographers could focus on the two presidents, striding side by side.
By Russia's count, this was the 28th meeting between Bush and Putin over seven years. They seem to get along well even when they fiercely disagree, as they increasingly do on issues such as missile defense, democracy, Iraq, Kosovo's independence, NATO expansion and many other subjects.
Saturday was a night for pleasantries. Come Sunday, it was to be all business, the last face-to-face encounter of the two men as presidents and a final stab at narrowing differences.
They easily found common ground Saturday on a subject they both enjoy: sports. Sochi will host the Winter Olympics in 2014 and Putin escorted Bush to the second floor of a guest house to show off a tabletop model of the Olympic grounds, competition sites, dormitories, press facilities and other buildings. Built to scale, it spread about 20 feet across the room.
Putin, wearing a brown turtleneck and casual brown jackets, acted like a proud parent as Bush and his wife were shown around the model by Dmitry Chernyshenko, president and chief executive of the organizing committee for the Sochi games, and Alexander Tkachyov, governor of the Krasnodar region in southern Russia. Tkachyov used a red laser pointer to show off different sites.
Putin watched silently, his hands shoved in his pockets and smiling broadly. Finally he could not resist a comment.
"This is your yacht," he joked to Bush, pointing at a tiny white ship on a blue areas of the board representing the sea. Bush chuckled.
Bush seemed to hang on every detail of the briefing. Looking up at the press corps, he said the media center appeared to be the largest building.
"A big project," Bush commented.
"It's going to be very exciting," the president said. "I'm very impressed."
Bush and Putin posed for pictures in front of the Sochi Olympic symbol. Laura Bush stepped aside to get out of the shot.