President Obama is canceling a planned meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin due to Moscow’s granting of asylum to fugitive NSA leaker Edward Snowden and a “lack of progress” between the two nations on other issues, the White House announced early Wednesday.
“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 press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.
The announcement amounted to an admission by the Obama administration that its much touted “reset” with Russia is in serious trouble.
White House officials have been threatening to cancel the meeting since Russian granted temporary asylum last week to Mr. Snowden, who is wanted in the U.S. on felony charges of leaking classified information about government surveillance programs. The former NSA contractor has been in Russia for about six weeks, and had been holed up in a Moscow airport while the Kremlin decided whether to allow him to stay.
Mr. Carney cited other failures in the administration’s relationship with Russia, such as “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.”
“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,” he 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.”
The White House said the administration values some “achievements” it has made with Russia in Mr. Obama’s first term, including the new START Treaty, and cooperation on Afghanistan, Iran, and North Korea. It said cooperation “remains a priority,” and that on Friday, Secretary of Defense Chuch Hagel and Secretary of State John F. Kerry will meet with their Russian counterparts in Washington “to discuss how we can best make progress moving forward on the full range of issues in our bilateral relationship.”
The move received bipartisan support on Capitol Hill.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat who was among those lawmakers urging Mr. Obama to cancel the meeting, said the president “clearly made the right decision.”
Added House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, California Republican, “This should help make clear that the Russian government’s giving Edward Snowden ‘refugee’ status is unacceptable. Snowden should be sent to the U.S. to defend his actions in a U.S. court of law.”
“President Putin is acting like a schoolyard bully and doesn’t deserve the respect a bilateral summit would have accorded him,” Mr. Schumer said.
Mr. Obama still plans to attend a G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, on September 5-6.