US President Donald Trump spent the week leading up to the G20 summit in Argentina playing golf and sending angry-toned tweets.
White House Press secretary Sarah Sanders said Mr Trump made the decision after discussions with Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Security Adviser John Bolton.
Mr Putin orchestrated a showdown with Ukraine by asserting Russian control of the shipping lanes around Crimea, seizing three vessels and holding more than 20 Ukrainian sailors.
The other leaders of the leading economies arriving in the Argentine capital for the two-day summit could hardly be described individually as in good cheer.
Meetings involving President Xi Jinping, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and President Emmanuel Macron will be closely watched.
The first ever three-way meeting between the US, India and Japan at the summit could take an emerging axis in the Asia-Pacific a step closer.
With the omens not promising, diplomats are questioning if President Trump wants to be there at all.
“It would not be surprising if he left as quickly as he can,” said one Western official.
The White House point-blank told many countries not to expect bilaterals with the US leader at the risk of him running out of patience, as he did at the G7 in France earlier this year.
Scheduled formal meetings with Turkey and South Korea were also cancelled aboard Air Force One on Thursday, the White House said.
The state of US relations with China and Russia demands face-to-face talks.
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