The very long table at which Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron sat during their recent meeting has taken on a life of its own, becoming the butt of jokes and spawning a raft of memes all across the world.
So what indeed is up with this extraordinarily long table that could seat Jesus and all His Apostles, and which is nearly long enough to serve as an Olympic curling venue?
Being placed at the end of what Reuters has reported is a 20-foot-long table — as undoubtedly as elegant as it is — isn’t something that only Macron has had the pleasure of experiencing. Now, Germany’s new chancellor Olaf Scholz has also had the peculiar distinction of sitting that far away from the Russian leader, who faces his interlocutors from the other end.
Putin’s table mocked online
The now-famous table is reminiscent of the enormous table in the film Citizen Kane showing the protagonist and his wife who were, shall we say, not getting along at the moment, sitting that same distance apart at breakfast.
With some commentators calling it a comically large table, it and other gigantic tables like it has often been the setting for other meetings the Russian president has taken of late, with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán being the first guest to enjoy its hospitality.
Summary of today’s Putin – Macron meeting 😅 pic.twitter.com/dri5O4Mv6F
— Abdylvehab (@abdylvehab) February 7, 2022
The table, which one must admit does allow for some extreme social distancing, was first seen during Putin’s February 1 meeting with the Hungarian leader. At that time, The Guardian suggested that Orbán’s apparent banishment was because he did not quarantine before seeing Putin, which is usually required for Russian officials before they meet with the Russian leader face to face.
The best Putin massive table memes spotted on Twitter, a short thread: pic.twitter.com/KrfcIFuXdt
— Shaun Walker (@shaunwalker7) February 15, 2022
However, Putin has not subjected all of his most recent meeting buds to the same treatment at the end of the elegant oval table. When Chinese President Xi Jinping and Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev met with him in two separate meetings this month, the leaders were photographed close together — suggesting that the distancing going on with Macron and Orban was less social and more political.
Putin VS Macron… pic.twitter.com/ZhXkBvmrTN
— Franjolittle (@Franjorodowski) February 7, 2022
Admittedly, Macron had refused to take a Russian-supplied PCR test, with Reuters reporting last Thursday it was because the French leader was concerned that Russia would then have access to his DNA, citing two anonymous sources close to him.
However, a different French official explained the event to Reuters by saying the seatng arrangements at the ends of the very long table were because of health protocols for Putin, who is supposed to live within a “strict health bubble.” The Kremlin then confirmed that was indeed the case.
The new German chancellor also had the dubious distinction of being seated at the far end of the gigantic table on Tuesday meeting at his Moscow meeting with Putin, leading to the creation of a slew of memes which provided some much-needed comic relief during this otherwise extremely tense situation.
Scholz likewise refused to take a Russian-administered Covid-19 test, according to an unnamed German official who spoke to Agence France Presse today.
However, close Putin aides even including Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also sat at the opposite end of a different, but also extremely long table for his tete a tete with Putin on Monday, although this extreme social distancing could have been related to the fact that he had just met last week in Moscow with U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, just ten days after she had tested positive for Covid-19.
Tuesday’s meeting between Putin and the new German chancellor comes at a particularly crucial time in the ongoing game of tug of war between the West and Russia. Just yesterday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shocked the press and public when he announced via social media that he had been told Russia would invade Ukraine Wednesday. Zelensky’s aides later said it had been an attempt at a joke.
Lavrov told Putin during a televised part of his meeting that Russia should continue to engage in diplomacy with Western nations, even going so far as to call the possibility of a diplomatic solution in the Ukraine crisis “far from exhausted.”
Putin did agreed to continue negotiations in the matter, while Russia announced today that it will withdraw some of its over 130,000 troops who have been reported to be along the Ukraine border. This is seen by many experts as an early indication that Russia is indeed willing to halt its aggressive moves and seek alternative solutions rather than military action.