TODAY   |  September 05, 2013

Obama to land in Russia for G20 summit

The President and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet during the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, with their biggest difference remaining Syria. NBC’s Chuck Todd reports.

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>>> we start with the news we're following this morning. president obama 's arrival in russian where potential strikes on syria are expected to dominate. chuck todd is traveling with the president. chuck, good morning to you.

>> reporter: while the president's national security aides struggle in washington to convince congress to back the president's plans to strike syria , the president himself is going to find an equally skeptical and divided group of world leaders here at the g-20 summit. and, of course, the biggest anyway neigh nay sayer is vladimir putin . it's likely to make a tense relationship between the united states and russian much worse. bracing for what could be yet another awkward confrontation with russia 's president vladimir putin , this morning president obama landed in st. petersburg for the g-20 summit. first plans for wednesday in months cow was scrap to grant temporary asylum to nsa leaker edward snowden. instead mr. obama spent the day in sweden where he admitted u.s./russian relations have hit a wall.

>> where our interests overlap, we should pursue common action. where we've got differences, we should be candid about them.

>> reporter: as the g-20 gets under way, the real sticking point between mr. obama and putin remains syria . in an interview with the associated press, putin , a strong assad supporter, said claims that assad used chemical weapons are absolutely absurd. and in comments to his own human rights council , putin went further, calling secretary of state john kerry a liar after he denied al qaeda was fighting along syrian rebels. back in washington, a potential u.s. military strike has now passed a key test. with senators on the foreign relations committee narrowly voting to authorize a limited military strike . after saying in 2012 syria 's use of chemical weapons would cross a, quote, red line and change his calculus, the president says the international's community is at stake.

>> i didn't set a red line . the world set a red line .

>> meanwhile, social media wednesday, syria 's first lady, sama al assad is back on instagram, projecting business as usual as syria 's civil war rages on.

>> and chuck, it's hard to overstate the pension that exists between putin and president obama . not only did he just call secretary of state kerry a liar, saying snowden still safe in russia . is there any chance at this point these leaders sit down and meet?

>> reporter: no. they might have -- there will be the official introduction photograph when the president is introduced, they'll shake hands, they'll see each other. but neither side is planning on any sort of official or even unofficial pull-aside. the diplomat pokes in the eye, the president is going to do a similar thing, is going to meet with some pro gay rights activists in russia tomorrow, a way to stick it to putin a little bit, just in the same way putin is doing to the president.

>> the g-20 is now focusing not probably on what they it plan to focus on but the issue of syria . he faces skeptical world leaders and a skeptical american public. are there any plans to have president obama address americans?

>> well, here's what i'm going to tell you, savannah. there is an intense lobbying campaign by democrats on capitol hill , republicans on capitol hill . outside supporters of the president, former aides who are telling him he has no choice, he's got to go to the country, he's got to do something in prime time , make this case. and to be totally politically crass about this, savannah, they believe he's got to provide the political cover for a bunch of democrats, particularly in the house. if this passes the house, it's going to pass on the backs of democrats, a lot of them, who got elected on an anti war , anti iraq platform a few years ago. and so the president has to provide that cover. it's more likely he will do this. is it sunday, monday or tuesday, that's unclear but seems aides are leaning in that direction.

>> chuck todd traveling with the president in st. petersburg, thank