Leaked text messages underscore rift between Obama and Putin

Photos by Elizabeth Cromwell / Kremlin: Wikimedia Commons

Photos by Elizabeth Cromwell / Kremlin: Wikimedia Commons

Leaked text messages between Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin show how strained the relationship between the two presidents has become. The exchanges also give insight into how the formerly collegial leaders often result to name-calling and innuendo in response to diplomatic scuffles.

WikiLeaks obtained the transcripts of 103 conversations between Obama and Putin, accounting for almost 25,000 characters — proof the two men are in frequent contact despite recent slights, including Russia’s granting of asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden and Obama’s cancellation of a September summit with Putin.

The leaked transcripts were obtained from the US telecommunications firm Verizon, President Obama’s cell phone provider. The exchanges between the two men date from April 16, 2013 to Friday.

The transcripts show that the two leaders have an on-again, off-again relationship. Psychologists say the exchanges are what they would expect from feuding teenage couples, not from the presidents of two of the most powerful nations on Earth. The frequent personal attacks followed by a series of fervent apologies —  that are quickly retracted — show a high level of emotional manipulation and insecurity, says Roberta Rocha, a professor of psychology at the University of Wyoming.

Political analysts say that the transcripts reveal how fraught with resentment the relationship between Russia and the United States has become. Painful memories, going back to the Cold War, seem to be at the root of the strained relationship, and recent disagreements appear to be used as an excuse to give the other leader a guilt trip about old wounds.

Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper and French president François Hollande are said to be in talks to determine if an intervention between Obama and Putin should be arranged, or if perhaps the two should enter into joint counselling.

Below are some of the text messages that were leaked. The times indicated are Eastern Standard Time (EST).



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