In the latest sign of escalating tensions between Vladimir Putin and the West, Russia has recalled its ambassador to the US after President Obama declined to wish him a happy birthday on Facebook.
Kremlin staff monitoring Putin’s official Facebook page anxiously confirmed to the Russian president this morning that Obama was not among the world leaders wishing him a happy birthday, formally triggering a grade 1 diplomatic crisis.
Shortly afterwards Russia recalled its ambassador and Kremlin press secretary Boris Petrov issued a statement.
“America has shown once again that it is turning its back on diplomacy and dragging the world into a new Cold War,” Petrov said. “I mean, Germany wished us a happy birthday. Poland said happy birthday. Hell, even Ukraine said happy birthday. It’s just good manners.
“It’s not like we expect a birthday cake emoji or anything.”
In a subsequent Q&A with state journalists, Petrov dismissed speculation that Obama simply didn’t see the notification about Putin’s birthday.
“Impossible,” he said. “You can’t switch those off. Lord knows we’ve tried. No, this is part of a campaign to undermine the Russian people and their way of life.”
US officials have since confirmed that Obama saw the notification about Putin’s birthday, but did not identify a pressing need to respond.
It is understood that a diplomatic solution is being sought, with Putin’s staff indicating to Obama via a consular back channel that he would settle for a ‘like’ on his forthcoming ‘Thanks for the birthday messages!’ post.