Obama Cancels Visit to Russia over Snowden’s Asylum

    August 7, 2013

It seems that Edward Snowden’s new found asylum in Russia may result in soured diplomatic relations between the Russian Federation and the United States: President Obama has formally cancelled his bilateral meeting with Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin after the infamous NSA leaker was permitted to enter the country with temporary papers. President Obama will still be attending the G-20 Summit in St. Petersburg, merely without a one-on-one meeting with Putin beforehand.

The official White House press statement read, “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.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney has said that although Russia’s “disappointing decision” to give Snowden asylum was a factor, a broad spectrum of issues contributed to President Obama’s decision to avoid a sit-down with Putin.

The White House had been flirting with the idea of cancelling the meeting for several weeks. Lawmakers like Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) were pressuring Obama to not only cancel the meeting but move the entire G-20 summit out of Russia, with Schumer adding that “President Putin is acting like a schoolyard bully.”

The Washington Post noted that Russia is unlikely to formally react, and that Putin was less than willing to negotiate a sit-down with President Obama. Yuri Uskakov, Putin’s foreign affairs adviser, said to reporters that the Kremlin was disappointed in the White House’s decision, although it is unsurprised at the reaction following the Snowden incident. “This problem testifies to the remaining unpreparedness of the United States to build an equal relationship,” Uskakov said.

President Obama said last night on NBC that, while “there is still a lot of business we can do with them, but there have been times where they slip back into Cold War thinking, and what I consistently say to them is ‘That’s the past, and we have to think about the future.’ ”

Instead of travelling to Russia, President Obama will initially visit Stockholm, Sweden on September 4. Jay Carney explains the itinerary change: “Sweden plays a key leadership role on the international stage, including in opening new trade and investment opportunities through the U.S.-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, advancing clean technologies, and promoting environmental sustainability.”

Image courtesy NBC News