A transcript of the telephone call between President Obama and Vladimir Putin reveals that the Russian president spent much of the 90 minutes watching television, at one point falling asleep while Obama tried in vain to convince him to withdraw his forces from Crimea.
The unusually-long call on Saturday was initiated by Obama, who is increasingly under pressure at home and abroad to prevent further Russian military involvement in Ukraine.
“Come on Vladimir, you’re being very rude,” Obama said. “Vlad. Vladimir. Mr. Putin. Come on, this is serious.”
Observers say Obama had tried to get out of making the call, complaining of diarrhea, saying he would just send Putin an email instead. He had also unplugged the Oval Office phone, declaring the line was down.
“Fine, fine, I’ll do it,” he is reported to have said. “Unless someone else wants to.”
Obama struggled to keep his Russian counterpart on topic, becoming annoyed when Putin changed the subject to how much fun it would be to hunt dinosaurs.
“90 minutes seems like a painfully long call,” said William Gallstone, a former White House adviser. “But if you don’t count the long pauses or when Mr. Putin fell asleep, the whole conversation was only about two-and-a-half minutes long.”
White House aides say President Obama was visibly upset after the telephone call, shouting, “I didn’t sign up for this crap.”
The phone call was one of the most unpleasant ways imaginable for Obama to spend a Saturday afternoon, said a former national-security aide.
“It was more terrifying than having his teleprompter malfunction during a State of the Union address,” said Tommy Vector. “It more awkward than having to explain why he allowed the NSA to spy on every American. It was more difficult than stifling his laughter upon meeting [former Italian prime minister Silvio] Berlusconi and imagining him saying ‘bunga bunga.’”
“No American president should have to endure such an unpleasant chore,” Vector added.
The Kremlin responded with a statement saying it would continue deploying the military to ensure the safety of Russian citizens no matter where they are, whether in Crimea or Chicago.