- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 15, 2008


Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was the only one out of two dozen leaders whose security would not allow U.S. Marines to open the door to his limousine for him.

President Bush gave a decidedly chilly welcome to Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who last month embarrassed him.

And Mr. Bush saluted Mexican President Felipe Calderon with a friendly, “Amigo, what’s up?”

Those were a few of the most striking details that emerged from the first hour of the global economic summit in Washington on Friday evening.

Mr. Bush spent that first hour playing peek-a-book president at the front door of the White House, welcoming 19 heads of state one by one as their motorcades arrived for a dinner.

The roughly 80 minutes of diplomatic duty for Mr. Bush was a study in body language, facial expressions and protocol that gave insight to U.S. relations with the world’s most powerful countries.

The president, who has 66 days left on the job, was friendly and cheerful with most of the leaders. But with representatives of less powerful countries, he was more relaxed than he was when heads of state from weightier nations appeared.

Each of the leaders was delivered by limousine to the foot of a six-step staircase covered with a red carpet, where Mr. Bush stood waiting at the top of the stairs.

For every leader but one, a U.S. Marine in a dress blue uniform at the foot of the stairs opened the limousine door. The leaders then greeted Mr. Bush at the top of the steps, posed for a photo and walked into the White House with the president.

Mr. Bush walked out and back in 23 times, at times exchanging knowing looks and grins with a small group of reporters watching the entire process.

But when Mr. Medvedev’s limousine arrived, the Marine took a step to his right, away from where he would need to be to open the rear passenger door, having obviously been instructed beforehand that he would not be opening the door for the Kremlin chief.

A Russian security agent jumped out of the front passenger side seat and opened the door for the diminutive Mr. Medvedev, who bounded up the flight of steps to while he buttoned his suit jacket.

“Hello Dmitry,” Mr. Bush said.

The two men shook hands, and as they turned, Mr. Medvedev strutted, shoulders thrust back and chest out, with a wide gait into the Entrance Hall next to Mr. Bush.

The subtle slight shown toward the U.S. military by the Russians hinted at the touchy relations between the Kremlin and White House.

Russia’s pique over what it perceives as U.S.-led attempts to marginalize and weaken its influence have been simmering for years, and the Kremlin’s newfound, oil-driven machismo was never more on display than in August, when it invaded former Soviet bloc country Georgia.

Though U.S. diplomats and military leaders have attempted to repair relations since Mr. Bush rebuked Russia for its actions in August, the relationship remains extremely fragile.

The president also appeared none too pleased with Australia’s Mr. Rudd Friday night. Mr. Rudd has disagreed with Mr. Bush on large issues such as the Iraq war and climate change, but it was a breach of trust last month that seems to have angered the president.

An Australian newspaper reported that someone in Mr. Rudd’s administration said Mr. Bush had said, “What’s the G-20?” during a phone conversation.

The Group of 20 nations comprise the attendees at this weekend’s summit, and includes rising powers China, India and Brazil, which the Euro-centric G8 does not.

Mr. Rudd’s office has strenuously denied that the story is true.

The Australian leader greeted Mr. Bush warmly as soon as he stepped out of his limousine, but Mr. Bush remained tight-lipped, not smiling and saying little as he stood next to Mr. Rudd and then walked him inside.

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