Obama Cancels Meeting With Russia's Putin Over Snowden Decision

by
Reuters

U.S. President Barack Obama is cancelling a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin scheduled for next month in Moscow, the White House said on Wednesday.

Obama

U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday canceled a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin planned for next month in Moscow over frustration with Russia's asylum for fugitive intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, the White House said.

The Obama administration has repeatedly expressed disappointment after Moscow granted temporary asylum to Snowden, a former U.S. National Security Agency contractor who made public sensitive information about U.S. intelligence gathering. Russia rebuffed U.S. pleas to hand him over to face criminal charges including espionage.

The White House noted cooperation with Russia over issues including policies toward Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, and weapons proliferation. But it said disappointment in progress with Russia on other fronts, as well as over Russia's handling of the Snowden affair, justified cancelling the summit.

"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.

"Russia's disappointing decision to grant Edward Snowden temporary asylum was also a factor that we considered in assessing the current state of our bilateral relationship," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement.

Obama now plans to add a stop in Sweden as part of this travels to the G20 summit in early September, the White House said.

On Tuesday, Obama confirmed that he would go to Russia this fall for a Group of 20 summit in St. Petersburg, but said he was "disappointed" with Moscow's decision on Snowden.

Senator Charles Schumer praised Obama's decision to cancel the bilateral summit with Putin.

"The President clearly made the right decision. President Putin is acting like a school-yard bully and doesn't deserve the respect a bilateral summit would have accorded him," the New York Democrat said in a statement.

Meetings between Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry and their Russian counterparts scheduled for Aug. 9 in Washington will go ahead as planned, the White House said.

"Our cooperation on these issues remains a priority for the United States," Carney said.

Snowden in June disclosed previously secret U.S. telephone and internet surveillance programs while in Hong Kong and then traveled to Russia, where he holed up in an airport for weeks.

Face-to-face talks between Obama and Putin in Northern Ireland in June were tense. The two disagree over Syria, Russia's human rights record and other issues.