President Obama has canceled a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Russia’s decision to give temporary asylum to former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has exacerbated tensions with the United States over a number of issues:
“Following a careful review begun in July, we have reached the conclusion that there is not enough recent progress in our bilateral agenda with Russia to hold a U.S.-Russia Summit in early September,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.
Carney cited a “lack of progress” with Russia over the past 12 months on a broad range of issues including missile defense and arms control, trade and commercial relations, global security and human rights and civil society issues. Carney added that Russia’s “disappointing decision” last week to grant Snowden temporary asylum, allowing him to live and work in Russia for up to a year, was also a factor.
“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,” Carney said.
On Friday, Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will meet with their Russian counterparts in Washington to discuss how to make progress, Carney said. . . .
The cancellation of the Obama-Putin meeting appeared unlikely to provoke an outsize reaction in Russia. Although Putin clearly wanted the prestige of an at-home summit with his U.S. counterpart, he was apparently unwilling to offer much in exchange for it.
Russia has shown no signs of changing its stance on Syria, missile defense or other issues important to the United States.
Putin’s foreign affairs adviser told reporters that the Kremlin was disappointed with the decision and blamed it on the Snowden affair, which he said was not Russia’s fault.
Obama also criticized Russia’s laws discriminating against gays last night on “The Tonight Show.” Because of the law, some have advocated a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics, which will be held in Sochi in February:
Saying that he had “no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them,” Obama criticized a law, enacted in June, that prohibits public events promoting gay rights and public displays of affection by same-sex couples. A Russian official has promised that the law will be enforced during next February’s Sochi Games despite the International Olympic Committee’s contrary stance.
“One of the things I think is very important for me to speak out on is making sure that people are treated fairly and justly because that’s what we stand for, and I believe that that’s a precept that’s not unique to America,” Obama said. “That’s just something that should apply everywhere.”
Politics often intrudes on the Olympics, but open intolerance at a time when the whole world is watching would leave a staggeringly negative impression.
Jay Leno and President Obama got right down to the issues — from al-Qaeda to Edward Snowden and the travel warning for Americans.
Max Fisher argues that the deterioration in the relationship between the two countries is largely due to the fact that neither has much to gain from cooperation:
The disputes between the U.S. and China have been far more severe and over much more substantive issues. Chinese hackers have stolen sensitive U.S. military technological secrets, broken into Google servers to undermine U.S. counterespionage efforts, infiltrated just about every major institution in Washington and stolen so much U.S. intellectual property that it’s been called “the greatest transfer of wealth in history.” Chinese human rights abuses are, by most standards, significantly worse than Russia’s. The U.S. and China have widely divergent interests on issues from Syria to North Korea to Iran to trade rules to currency standards. U.S.-China meetings can get, I’m told, plenty “blunt” and “animated.” These are problems that make the latest U.S.-Russia disputes, over Snowden and anti-gay rights legislation, look pretty mild by comparison. . . .
President Reagan called the Soviet Union an “evil empire,” Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev famously declared, “We will bury you.” And yet, for decades, U.S. and Soviet leaders held one summit meeting after another, even though the tensions were so high – and so personal – that they sometimes ended with, for example, a May 1960 Paris summit where Khrushchev dressed down President Eisenhower for U2 spy plane flights, one or the other storming out in outrage.
So how is it that U.S. and Soviet leaders went ahead with decades of summits despite disagreements so severe they implied a threat of World War III, while today a summit falls apart over a single NSA contractor and the slow progress in some minor security and trade cooperation measures?