President Barack Obama’s abrupt cancellation of a summit planned for next month with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin is being seen as a low point in US-Russia relations.
The Kremlin said it was disappointed by the move and blames the dispute between the two countries over whistleblower Edward Snowden.
However the White House has said there was more to the decision than that:
“Major issues were not teed up to make significant progress on the level of a president-to-president summit. That wasn’t a constructive step to take at this point,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
Former CIA contractor Edward Snowden who was holed up in a Moscow airport for weeks, faces criminal charges in the US including espionage for disclosing details of secret surveillance programmes.
Moscow’s decision to grant him temporary asylum has irritated the White House, but there are other issues such as Syria and Iran .
Andrew Weiss, a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace expert said the cancellation of the summit reflects patience running out on behalf of the White House.
“After the president was re-elected, the Russian government has basically been told by the Obama administration, ‘Let’s frame a common agenda’. And so for the last several months, the administration has been walking through a series of milestones with the Russians, trying to do that. They’ve really gotten nowhere. And so the decision to pull out of the Moscow trip I think represents as much frustration with the failure to frame an agenda with the Russians as the immediate fallout from the Snowden case.”
The one-to-one between the two leaders was to have happened the day before September’s G20 meeting in St Petersburg. Obama is still committed to attending those talks in Russia but there may be an autumn chill in the air.
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