News / Europe

Obama Cancels Meeting with Russian President

Obama Cancels Putin Summit, Cites Snowden, Other Differencesi
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August 08, 2013 12:54 AM
In a major diplomatic rebuke, President Barack Obama has canceled a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The meeting was supposed to have taken place next month in Moscow before the G20 summit in St Petersburg. VOA Senior White House Correspondent Dan Robinson reports.
President Barack Obama has canceled a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin that was supposed to take place next month before the G20 summit in Russia.  
For a U.S. president who made the "reset" of relations with Russia a major foreign-policy priority, the sharp diplomatic rebuke to Putin marks a pivotal point for his relations with the Russian leader and the overall bilateral relationship.

A White House statement said that after a "careful review" it was determined there was "not enough recent progress" in the bilateral agenda to hold the summit in early September.

The statement noted key areas on which Washington and Moscow have cooperated, including the New START [nuclear arms reduction] Treaty, Afghanistan, Iran, and North Korea.

But it said that given the lack of progress on issues such as missile defense and arms control, trade and commercial relations, global security issues and human rights, it would be "more constructive to postpone the summit."

In Russia, President Putin's foreign affairs adviser said Obama's decision reflected the United States' inability to develop relations on an "equal basis."  Yuri Ushakov added the Obama invitation to visit Moscow still stands and Russia remains ready to continue working on all key issues.

Snowden controversy

But the biggest recent issue in relations was Russia's decision to grant temporary asylum to Edward Snowden, the former U.S. intelligence contractor who leaked details of U.S. electronic surveillance programs.

Russian President Putin rejected the U.S. request to expel Snowden to face U.S. espionage charges.

The White House statement called the issue a "factor" considered in assessing the current state of the bilateral relationship.

In an appearance Tuesday night on NBC-TV's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Obama said he was "disappointed" when Russia granted asylum to Snowden, saying it reflected some "underlying challenges" with Moscow.

He cited Russian cooperation on counter-terrorism, including after the Boston bombings, and supply lines for U.S. forces in Afghanistan.  But he said there have been times when Russia slipped back into "Cold War thinking and a Cold War mentality."

In Washington, Anthony Cordesman, a foreign policy analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said he thought the White House decision was aimed at a domestic audience, and that it did not advance the relationship.

"I can’t help but think that a lot of this is American domestic politics," said Cordesman. "That if you had a less partisan Congress, a less extreme political climate, the United States would take the lesson from the entire Cold War, when we faced a much more serious problem with the former Soviet Union. You talk. You do not send a message that is meaningful by not communicating, by not meeting," he said.

The White House issued a separate statement Wednesday saying the president will travel to Sweden before the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, which he will still attend.

Calling Sweden a "close friend and partner" of the United States, it said talks will focus on on U.S. - EU trade and investment and other issues.

As assessments are made of damage to relations from the summit postponement, previously scheduled talks that Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel plan to hold in Washington with their Russian counterparts will go ahead.

The White House said those discussions will assess how the two sides can "best make progress moving forward on the full range of issues" in the bilateral relationship.

Syria continues to be one major issue of disagreement. Russia continues to support President Bashar al-Assad in his fight against rebels. The United States is providing the rebels with small arms and other support.  

There has been little progress toward convening an international conference that would involve the Assad government and the Syrian rebel coalition. The death toll in Syria is now estimated at more than 100,000.

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: DAVID LULASA from: tambua,gimarakwa,hamisi,v
August 08, 2013 5:24 AM
russia should not forget the visit and dialogue with john kerry that was held there recently..if only that is followed up by russia,there will be an improvement of human rights in russia and the world.


by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
August 08, 2013 2:12 AM
It looks everything has happened having good reasons to happen. It is time for Putin to make some decision how to deal Snowden as over a month has passed since he stayed in a Rossian airport. As for Obama, if he meets with Putin following the schedule, he would be condemned by Repubricans as he is chicken to Russia. I am more interested in how they would meet in G20 summit in Rossia. It seems unlikely Obaba cancel attending the summit. Thank you.


by: Gennady from: Russia, Volga Region
August 07, 2013 8:35 PM
To my mind, Obama’s cancelling of the Meeting with Mr. Putin is wise and well-thought-out. What new breakthroughs can be anticipated in the preplanned Obama-Putin Summit with Russia ruled on the pattern resembling Brazil 1972, Chile 1976 and Argentina 1979 or Mugabe’s Zimbabwe in Africa? Although previously a Nuke State, Russia after 14 years of FSB (federal security service) rule under Mr. Putin became a secondary country in deep economic/financial/military/scientific/technological/demographic/educational/health care crisis. The country is plagued by rampant unmanageable corruption, without glimpse of rule of law. So called courts of law just mock the law with more than 99% guilty verdicts. The high-profile example are attempts to jail Mr. Navalny, the opposition leader: two times earlier absurd charges against him were dropped due to lack of evidence, the judge chosen for the third attempt to cage Mr. Navalny didn’t pronounce a single “no guilty” verdict in his previous 150 cases in 18 months, the case had signs of petty revenge for defendant’s political views, the defendant, Mr.Navalny, was on unpaid job for performing his duties in question, he didn’t sign any document that led to the “crime”, witnesses of prosecution contradicted themselves, the judge’s ruling copied the prosecution’s statement, but nevertheless the defendant was sentenced to five years in prison, handcuffed, put into a cell . But lo and behold, the next day the uncompromising prosecution begged the court of law for the immediate release of the “criminal”.

Mr. Ushakov, Russian foreign affairs adviser to Mr. Putin, commented Obama’s decision as unfair and unequal. But what kind of equality maybe with a country where the President got his unprecedented third term in office (against Constitution) after rigged and disputed election, where the Parliament was also elected in widely rigged election, where dozens of articles of the Constitution are indefinitely suspended and basic human rights aren’t observed?

In Response

by: Joseph Abishaloom from: 6400NsheridanRDIL
August 07, 2013 11:31 PM
Proud of Mr. president Barack Obama ; DOING YOUR BEST. Gracious God, bless you.


by: Davis K. Thanjan from: New York
August 07, 2013 8:23 PM
Obama is just avoiding to challenge Putin. Obama should have the guts of former President Reagan to challenge the Russians. Just avoiding to meet is not enough. Definite punitive action against the Russians is required.


by: Markt
August 07, 2013 4:50 PM
It is interesting to hear Obama mention that the Russians have slipped back into their Cold War attitude, when the United States has never put aside its Cold War attitude at all..... We still think we should be the world's savior concerning all things not-American in thinking and policy making. Dialogue between nations is critical and our decision not to meet at G20 makes us look like bratty kids who didn't get their way. I have to side with Putin on this one, we do have a hard time establishing relations on an equal basis, as we tend to see ourselves as superior most times, and this is the wrong way of thinking and one of our many shortcomings. I love this country, I am as American as they come having served this Country for 12 years in two Branches of Service (Air Force and Marine Corps) during Operation Urgent Fury and Desert Shield/Desert Storm (1981 to 1993). We need to drop our stance as a World Leader and start acting like a World Partner.


by: Ali Amiri from: Tehran
August 07, 2013 3:59 PM
It stands to reason that the two super Nuke powers should reach an agreement over such a sophisticated issue to show a positive gesture to other nations that they both are seriously after controlling of Nuke Weapons therefore they must stop this dangerous race either. Their close bilateral cooperation on other globally related concerns and grounds , including Syria , Egypt , severe humans rights violation by self ruled unellected ostensible theocratic Regimes in the Middle East and other problems is substantially necessary . Edward Snowden is now gone and what should have not happened is already happened ! Makes no difference now, who at fault was on that ! Nonetheless his case must not overshadow All these significant pending issues between America and Russia ! Rebuke reflects Rebuke !


by: Haron from: Afghanistan
August 07, 2013 2:07 PM
as I think and as i watch US lost it's behavior in the world specially in Afghanistan. for US keeping the prestige in middle level of behavior is out of control. if the cold war between US and Russian rose the result will be goes to Russia side. US mustn't forget that today is not 1980's that people of the world be deceived that Russia has wrong policy. every babies know that US is the second devil, big liar and failed country in the world.

In Response

by: Lara
August 08, 2013 6:27 AM
And who is the first devil? Putin.

In Response

by: Egor from: Russia - Thailand
August 07, 2013 9:44 PM
"Every babies know that US is the second devil, big liar and failed country in the world." Sound like in Hollywood movie...

But even now Russia is not a better place for its own citizens. Smart people and middle class are trying to run out.
Perhaps foreign policy is good. But still many social problems are remaining.

Dan Robinson - Author didn't mention China.

I think for Russia better keep good relationship with China than with USA. It's true that China now is new superpower. And let me remind you communist superpower.

If we look deeper into history Russia was communist country before too. And as a result of cold war that system was destroyed.

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