As if to stress the contrast with warmer Russian-US relations of days gone by, President Putin has sent his old sparring partner George W. Bush a “get well” message following the former leader’s heart surgery earlier this week.
Bush and Putin got on well when they first met as presidents in 2001, although ties later soured.
Obama’s relations with Putin could barely be more frosty.
The timing of the message is seen as not entirely coincidental, the day after Obama pulled out of a planned meeting with the Russian.
“This is a very dramatic move, and according to the American media no such cancellation had happened in decades in the United States,” said political analyst Maria Lipman of the Carnegie Centre in Moscow.
“On the Russian side, the rather Soviet Nikita Khrushchev cancelled his meeting with President Eisenhower when an American spy’s plane was downed in 1960 over the Soviet territory,” Lipman explained.
The White House cited several reasons for cancelling next month’s meeting, from arms control to human rights – including Russia’s decision to grant temporary asylum to US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.
Obama will still go to Russia for the G20 summit.