Obama cancels Moscow summit with Putin
LOS ANGELES — In a rare diplomatic rebuke, President Barack Obama today (August 7) cancelled his Moscow summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The decision reflected both United States anger over Russia’s harboring of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and growing frustration within the Obama administration over what it sees as Moscow’s stubbornness on other key issues, including missile defense and human rights.
Mr Obama will still attend the Group of 20 economic summit in St Petersburg, Russia, but a top White House official said the president had no plans to hold one-on-one talks with Mr Putin while there. Instead of visiting Mr Putin in Moscow, the president will add a stop in Sweden to his early September travel itinerary.
Mr Obama, who is traveling in California, said in an interview yesterday that he was “disappointed” by Russia’s move to grant Snowden asylum for one year. But he said the move also reflected the “underlying challenges” the US faces in dealing with Moscow.
“There have been times where they slip back into Cold War thinking and a Cold War mentality,” Mr Obama said in an interview on NBC’s The Tonight Show.
White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said Russia’s decision last week to defy the US and grant Snowden temporary asylum only exacerbated an already troubled relationship. And with few signs that progress would be made during the Moscow summit on other agenda items, Mr Rhodes said the president decided to cancel the talks.
“We’ll still work with Russia on issues where we can find common ground, but it was the unanimous view of the president and his national security team that a summit did not make sense in the current environment,” Mr Rhodes said.
Mr Obama’s decision to scrap talks with Mr Putin is likely to deepen the chill in the already frosty relationship between the two leaders. They have frequently found themselves at odds on pressing international issues, most recently in Syria, where the US accuses Mr Putin of helping President Bashar Assad fund a civil war. The US has also been a vocal critic of Russia’s crackdown on Kremlin critics and recently sanctioned 18 Russians for human rights violations.
For its part, Moscow has accused the US of installing a missile shield in Eastern Europe as a deterrent against Russia, despite American assurances that the shield is not aimed at its former Cold War foe. Mr Putin also signed a law last year banning US adoptions of Russian children, a move that was seen as retaliation for the US measure that cleared the way for the human rights sanctions.
The US was expected to notify the Russians this morning about Mr Obama’s decision to shutter the Moscow summit, though the two presidents were not expected to speak directly. Mr Obama and Mr Putin last met in June on the sidelines of the Group of 8 summit in Northern Ireland.