When diplomats meet, sometimes they bring gifts designed to showcase their country and welcome their counterpart. For U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, however, these gifts sometimes appear to send not-so-opaque messages.
Take the gifts given on Tuesday when Kerry arrived in Sochi, Russia, for a meeting with President Vladimir Putin. It's an important meeting that some hope might smooth over the difficult relationship that has developed between the two nations.
According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Kerry's gift back was easier to interpret: He handed over a "list of Russian media quotes, which, according to him, do not reflect the real potential of large-scale US-Russian relations," a message on the Facebook page of the ministry suggested.
"In one word it's sunny today in Sochi," the post concluded.
However, Will Stevens, a spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, denied this was a gift from Kerry. Stevens tweeted a photograph of a suitcase that he said was given to Lavrov.
Kerry has been more imaginative with his gifts before – something his Russian counterpart referenced with his basket of potatoes. In January 2014, he gave Lavrov two Idaho potatoes during a meeting in Paris, explaining that the Russian had referenced the famous export when they had last met. Lavrov replied that the gifts were "impressive," according to the NBC News.
However, Lavrov also suggested that the potatoes could have been used symbolic. "The specific potato which John handed to me has the shape which makes it possible to insert potato in the carrot-and-stick expression. So it could be used differently," he said, according to the BBC. The secretary of state replied that there was "no hidden meaning" behind the potatoes.
The Russian's gift to his American counterparts in Paris, however, was also open to interpretation: Larvov gave Jen Psaki, then a spokesperson for the United States Department of State, a pink hat.
Thanks to a myriad of disagreements between the United States and Russia, Kerry and Lavrov have had a complicated relationship over the past few years.
However, the gifts shared between the two are still marginally less awkward than a gift given by then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to Lavrov in 2009. Clinton, hoping to announce a new era in U.S.-Russia relations, had presented the Russian foreign minister with a red button that was supposed to say 'reset' in Russian.