President Obama canceled an upcoming summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, a rare, deliberate snub that reflects the fresh damage done by the Edward Snowden case to an important relationship already in decline.
Obama had planned to visit Moscow for a symbolic one-on-one meeting at the Kremlin with Putin ahead of next month’s Group of 20 economic summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. In unusually blunt terms, the White House announced Wednesday that Obama will skip the Moscow stop because there is too little hope of a productive meeting.
“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.
With that announcement, Obama effectively wrote off more than a year of effort to build cooperation with Putin, a shrewd but famously irascible politician with a deep suspicion of U.S. motives.
Gone, too, are most of the administration’s first-term hopes of a remade U.S.-Russian partnership — the so-called reset — that emphasized common approaches to global problems despite acknowledged policy differences.
On Tuesday, Obama told Jay Leno of “The Tonight Show” that he is frustrated by Russia’s protection of Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who is wanted on espionage charges after leaking to the media highly classified documents about U.S. surveillance programs. Snowden last week was granted temporary asylum in Russia for up to a year.
“There are times when they slip back into Cold War thinking and Cold War mentality,” Obama said. “What I continually say to them and to President Putin: That’s the past.”
Carney cited a “lack of progress” with Russia on a broad range of issues including missile defense and arms control, trade and commercial relations, and human rights issues.
“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,” he said.
Although Putin clearly wanted the prestige of an at-home summit with his U.S. counterpart, he apparently was unwilling to offer much in exchange for it.