Obama cancels meeting with Putin over asylum to Snowden

WASHINGTON (TIP): Relations between the United States and Russia deteriorated further on Wednesday, August 7 when Barack Obama abandoned a presidential summit with Vladimir Putin that was due to be held next month, amid fury in Washington over Moscow’s decision to grant asylum to the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

US President Barack Obama has canceled his scheduled visit to Moscow to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, as tension builds up between two countries over fugitive intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.

The mini-summit had been scheduled for early September, days before the G-20 meeting of world economic leaders in St. Petersburg, Russia. Obama still plans to attend the main G-20 summit. Authorities in Moscow last week granted temporary asylum to Snowden, who is wanted by U.S. authorities for leaking classified intelligence information to newspapers. That decision infuriated Washington. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called on the U.S. “to fundamentally rethink our relationship with Putin’s Russia.”

In a statement Wednesday, the White House noted cooperation in some areas, such as policies toward Afghanistan and Iran, but said Moscow’s decision to help Snowden was “disappointing.” “Given our lack of progress on issues such as missile defense and arms control, trade and commercial relations, global security issues, and human rights and civil society in the last twelve months, we have informed the Russian Government that we believe it would be more constructive to postpone the summit until we have more results from our shared agenda,” the White House said. Senator Charles E. Schumer, who had urged Obama to cancel the summit, welcomed the White House decision. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the decision to abandon the summit was made after a unanimous decision by the White House national Security Council.

A meeting between defense secretary Chuck Hagel, secretary of state John Kerry and their Russian counterparts will go ahead in Washington on Friday as planned. In a separate announcement, the White House said Obama will visit Sweden instead, traveling to Stockholm the day before the St Petersburg summit. “Sweden is a close friend and partner to the United States,” it said in a statement. “[It] plays a key leadership role on the international stage including in opening new trade and investment opportunities.” Speaking on Tuesday night, Obama said he was disappointed that Russia had allowed Swowden to stay instead of sending the former government contractor back to the US to face espionage charges.

In his first direct comments about Snowden since Russia’s decision last week, the president said the situation reflected “underlying challenges” in dealing with Moscow. “There have been times where they slip back into cold war thinking and a cold war mentality,” Obama said on NBC’s Tonight Show. The decision to cancel the meeting was greeted with little surprise in Moscow, where analysts and lawmakers have been predicting such a step.

Presidential aide Yuri Ushakov said the Kremlin was disappointed that Obama cancelled the meeting with Putin, state news agency RIANovosti reported. “It’s obvious that this decision is connected to the situation with the American intelligence services employee Snowden, which was not created by us,” he said.


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