The Russian and German leaders are set to meet Sunday. But while business between the two nations is good, Germans are concerned over the Kremlin's domestic crackdown.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry came out of their Berlin meeting sounding optimistic, in contrast to recent discord in the US-Russia relationship.
The US believes North Korea's satellite is out of control, but the South Koreans insist that it is functioning normally.
President Putin offered no indication that Russia will support a UN Security Council resolution backed by the US, Britain, and France that would open the door for military intervention.
Almost half the ships in a Russian flotilla headed to Syria are well suited for transporting large numbers of people. As many as 100,000 Russians may live in Syria.
Russia joined UN Security Council members in condemning Syria's government after a massacre in Houla. Some Russian officials speculate the massacre was carried out by rebels to garner sympathy.
Russia appears to be running out of patience with Assad's heavy hand, and is preparing to push the Syrian leader for political and humanitarian concessions.
Russia has steadfastly rejected pressure by the UN Security Council for Syrian President Assad to step aside. It says it will now support a UN resolution supporting a cease-fire, Red Cross access.
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said he convinced Assad to make concessions, but Russian experts say his visit to Damascus was more about saving face for Russia than ending the violence.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said this week that he has ordered the Russian military to immediately take measures to counter US plans to install advanced radars and anti-missile interceptors in European countries.