Obama rethinks Putin summit after Snowden granted asylum

WASHINGTON Thu Aug 1, 2013 5:56pm EDT

U.S. President Barack Obama (C) confers with House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (R) and Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) (L) after a meeting with House Democrats at the Capitol Visitor's Center in Washington July 31, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

U.S. President Barack Obama (C) confers with House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (R) and Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) (L) after a meeting with House Democrats at the Capitol Visitor's Center in Washington July 31, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Gary Cameron

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama is rethinking whether to hold a summit in Moscow with President Vladimir Putin next month after Russia rejected U.S. pleas and gave temporary asylum to former American spy agency contractor Edward Snowden, the White House said on Thursday.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama and U.S. officials are "extremely disappointed" by Russia's decision to give Snowden a one-year asylum in the face of entreaties from American officials to expel Snowden back to the United States to face espionage charges.

The Russian move also appeared to have put in doubt high-level talks scheduled for next week between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and their Russian counterparts. These talks are now "up in the air," a U.S. official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

But the Obama administration's response to Russia's move was restrained compared to the swift retaliatory steps urged by U.S. lawmakers, including allies of Obama.

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.

Russia's move raised questions about the policy of "resetting" U.S. relations with Russia that Obama embarked on after taking office in 2009, and put pressure on Obama to react decisively to what many saw as a Russian rebuke.

Obama's first major decision is whether to go ahead with a one-on-one summit with Putin in Moscow next month in advance of a summit of G20 leaders in St. Petersburg.

"We are evaluating the utility of a summit, in light of this and other issues, but I have no announcement today on that," Carney told reporters.

Obama currently plans to participate in the St. Petersburg event, but is giving no indication of going ahead with the Moscow summit with Putin. 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.

'STABBED US IN THE BACK'

Senator Chuck Schumer, a Democrat who is a strong Obama ally, urged the president to retaliate by recommending that the G20 summit be moved out of Russia.

"Russia has stabbed us in the back, and each day that Mr. Snowden is allowed to roam free is another twist of the knife," Schumer said. "Given Russia's decision today, the president should recommend moving the G20 summit."

Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, already sharp critics of Putin, called the Russian action a disgrace and a deliberate effort to embarrass the United States.

"It is a slap in the face of all Americans. Now is the time to fundamentally rethink our relationship with Putin's Russia. We need to deal with the Russia that is, not the Russia we might wish for. We cannot allow today's action by Putin to stand without serious repercussions," McCain and Graham said in a statement.

The two Republicans said the United States should retaliate boldly by, for example, pushing for completion of all missile-defense programs in Europe and moving for another expansion of NATO to include Russian neighbor Georgia.

"We have long needed to take a more realistic approach to our relations with Russia, and hopefully today we finally start," they said.

Whether such steps were in the offing was unclear. Carney defended the "reset" in relations with Russia, saying it has proved beneficial on a host of issues, from cooperation on Afghanistan to dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, faces U.S. criminal charges including espionage, theft of government property and unauthorized communication of national defense information.

The 30-year-old slipped quietly out of Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport on Thursday after being granted a year's asylum in Russia, ending more than five weeks in limbo in the transit area.

There is a long list of U.S. differences with Russia on other issues, led by Russia's support for President Bashar al-Assad in Syria's civil war even as the United States calls for his departure.

Andrew Weiss, who was a Russia expert on the National Security Council under President Bill Clinton, said he did not think the Obama administration would make a decision on Obama's planned trip to Russia until at least next week, after the Russian foreign and defense ministers visit Washington.

The Kerry and Hagel talks are supposed to cover arms control, missile defense, Iran and Syria.

"If the Russians, at those talks, demonstrate a dramatic change in their positions, it's conceivable the (Moscow) trip will still go ahead. I think that's exceedingly unlikely based on everything that's happened in the past couple of months, where the Russians are not looking to be terribly collaborative with the United States on those issues," Weiss said.

(Additional reporting by Thomas Ferraro, Susan Cornwell and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Alistair Bell and Will Dunham)

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Comments (15)
Mr. Obama I suggest you just ignore Snowden and forget he even exists, he is not worht the press or attention he been getting. I know you want to get them all, terrorists and traitors, but sometimes it better to just give it up.

Aug 01, 2013 4:11pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
mils54 wrote:
When you hock a lugie in someones face you must expect them to hock back, The U.S put’s Russia on these human rights lists and chides them publicly on their way of life on a consistant basis, You can’t possibly expect them to be some kind of pet!. We have many mutual interests with the Russians that are beneficial to both nations, Ignore the war mongers and let’s hope they die off soon, as they are bad for our Children! Don’t cancel the important meetings and take the higher ground on this one!, Brush it off and continue to work together with the Russians toward Missile reduction and making money!, That’s what your good at!, JMO.

Aug 01, 2013 4:23pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Reuters1945 wrote:
The people who are dwelling on the fact that Snowden has been offered asylum by an entity that was once referred to as “The Evil Empire”, are totally missing the whole point.

Where is the sense and what on Earth is to be gained by employing that tired old refrain: “Hey- but they are worse than us and allow less human rights than we do”.

Oh please- give me a break.

Accusing Snowden of “fleeing” is tantamount to claiming he is a coward for not remaining in a country that would have absolutely condemned him to remain in some US gulag prison in the middle of no where, for the remainder of his life with zero chance of parole even after 40 years- that is if he were not handed a death sentence in the first place.

Does anyone recall that just recently, not that long ago, Obama was attempting to belittle and make nothing of Snowden’s importance by statements to the effect, and I paraphrase here to the best of my recollection:

“I (Obama) have more important things to deal with than spending time on some “hacker”.

and how about this statement by the POTUS:

“It is not like the US is going to bother to scramble jets to capture this guy”.

But now we hear talk about cancelling important International meetings and not participating in the Olympics.

That’s our “Dear Leader” for you, who in a fit of childish tantrum, would rob thousands of young competing American athletes of fulfilling the ultimate dream of their lives, towards which they have trained 24/7 for years beyond counting.

Right !! That really makes a lot of sense. Punish all the young American athletes who represent the cream of our nation because the Dear Leader feels “pissed off” at Mr. Putin.

As if the young of our nation have not already been punished enough with usury type, exorbitant interest rate, College Loans, the Wall Street and Hedge Fund manipulators who cost the nation trillions but who the American taxpayer was forced to bail out (remember too big to fail ?) and on and on it goes.

Did I mention the countless millions of hard working Americans who lost their homes and jobs and futures, both their own and that of their children while the one per cent grew ever richer and richer.
But the POTUS, as always, being a “Legend in his own mind” knows what is best for America.

We will punish Putin over this Snowden business by punishing 300,000,000 (Three Hundred Million) Americans by denying them any national participation in the Olympics. What a genius ! I guess you can’t get much smarter than that.

(BTW- as a matter of full disclosure, I worked quite hard to get this POTUS elected both times only because the alternative candidate/s might well have dragged the US into WW III including employing the use of nuclear weapons)

What a truly sad and tragic fate has been visited upon a once proud America when the US voter is forced to vote for the candidate who is most likely to do the least damage to our nation and its future.

Aug 01, 2013 4:47pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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