US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, met Nov. 20 on the margins of the Asia-Pacific Economic Summit in Peru. The four-minute conversation is most likely to be the last meeting between Putin and Obama in Obama's capacity as president of the United States, though Putin invited Obama to visit Russia “any time at his convenience.” The brief encounter focused on the two issues that have been shaping the overall agenda for US-Russia relations in the last couple of years — Ukraine and Syria. While both lamented “the absence of progress” on the Ukrainian track, statements on Syria signaled the goals and expectation each party had vis-a-vis the other.
As Obama emphasized the need for Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to “continue pursuing initiatives together with the broader international community to diminish the violence and alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people," Putin pointed out that the "remaining two months of [Obama's presidency] should be used for the continuation of the search for a Syrian settlement." The dialectic of the statements was: Although the parties perceive each other as untrustworthy, both share a need to preserve a political will to selectively cooperate.