The article in the Daily Herald indicated that President Obama and President Putin circled each other warily at the International Conference in China. Is anybody surprised? The flow of words between them for the past several months has been anything but cozy.
To deal with each other warily means that they were cautious and careful in the way they approached (or avoided) each other. No handshakes, no embraces, no casual conversations.
When the world is watching 24 hours a day, there is no room for gestures or words that could be misinterpreted or misconstrued. A smile between them might signal that they are on a friendlier path than has been reported for months now. And a rude gesture might light the fire of an international incident that neither of them wants to be responsible for.
That doesn’t mean that there won’t be anything to report. In fact, the fact that they are circling each other warily is reportable in itself. Watching the dance is a story in itself.
Those who remember the choreography of the Cold War will recognize the steps immediately. Do nothing that demonstrates a change in policy. There will be a time and a place for words to be spoken, and they will be chosen very carefully. The wordsmiths have their pencils sharpened and the Twitter community is waiting with bated breath for a signal, a word, a tone of voice, or even just the body language to report that these two world leaders have squared off. Oh, there won’t be fisticuffs. And I doubt that anything resembling the World Wrestling Entertainment network will be caught on video.
More likely will be caustic comments in a speech, double entendres which are impossible to mistake for affection for each other, or gestures of avoidance and snubbing. Somebody may walk out, or pound a shoe on the table. But there will be a lot of care and advisory coaching put into the anticipation of a time when they are inadvertently or intentionally in the same place at the same time.
Yes, they will exercise their interactions warily, knowing the potential results in the spin attributed to the moments by the press and those others who are watching.
This behavior is exhausting. Smiles and handshakes are much easier. But there has to be a reason for them, and right now wary behavior is probably appropriate.
Photo Credit: Associated Press