Los Angeles There was a time when a visit from the president of Russia to the president of the United States was full of protocol set amid an air of great historical forces at work.
On Thursday, President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev skipped the formalities and dashed out for a quick hamburger.
Medvedev got a chance to go where Obama has taken his vice president — to Ray’s Hell Burger in Arlington, Va. According to pool reports, the pair took off their suit jackets and sat down to the house specialties.
Obama had a cheddar cheeseburger with onions, lettuce, tomato and pickles, washed down with an iced tea. Medvedev selected a cheddar cheeseburger with onions, jalapeno peppers and mushrooms. He ordered a Coke, in an echo of the days when another cola played a crucial role in U.S.-Russia relations.
Pepsi was the cola of choice in Richard Nixon’s administration and Donald Kendall, a founder of PepsiCo, had a long history with Nixon. He had been with then-Vice President Nixon on his visit to the Soviet Union when Nixon sparred with Nikita Khrushchev over whose economic system was better, communism or capitalism. The exchange became a famous Cold War moment known as the Kitchen Debate.
Kendall is credited with bringing Pepsi to Russia and helping to open the country to U.S. trade. In 2004, he was awarded the Order of Friendship by Vladimir Putin, then president of Russia and still the main political force in the country.
In May 2009, Obama famously took Vice President Joe Biden to Ray’s.
Obama picked up the tab Thursday.