Russia’s decision to grant asylum to U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden worsened an already troubled relationship, says White House

U.S. President Barack Obama has cancelled a much-talked-about summit with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin next month, blaming Russia’s decision to grant whistleblower Edward Snowden temporary asylum and other components of a bilateral morass.

In a statement on Wednesday, the White House delivered the “snub” saying, “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.”

However, the Obama administration admitted that Snowden “was also a factor that we considered in assessing the current state of our bilateral relationship”.

The White House said there had been a lack of progress in areas of bilateral cooperation such as missile defence and arms control, trade and commercial relations, global security issues, and human rights and civil society in the last 12 months, prompting it to inform the Russian government it would be “more constructive to postpone” the summit.

No strategy

Speaking to The Hindu, Clifford Gaddy, a Senior Fellow and Russia specialist at the Brookings Institution, however, said that since the collapse of the so-called “reset” in U.S.-Russia ties that Mr. Obama initiated in his first term, “The administration has no real strategy towards Russia and so there is no way to explain the decision [to postpone the summit] in terms of why it does not fit U.S. strategic interests.”

Mr. Gaddy added that the decision for the two Presidents to meet on the sidelines of the G20 summit in St. Petersburg was taken recently, after the June 2013 G8 summit in Ireland, and so it was legitimate to ask what had changed significantly between then and now apart from Moscow’s decision to grant Mr. Snowden asylum. The Snowden factor must have been “critical” to this decision, he said.

Adding to “snub”, the White House also issued a second statement within minutes of the first noting that Mr. Obama would visit Sweden on the days on which he may have earlier been planning to meet Mr. Putin — September 4 and 5

Though the White House noted that Sweden was “plays a key leadership role... in opening new trade and investment opportunities through the U.S.-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, advancing clean technologies, and promoting environmental sustainability,” Mr. Gaddy argued that this may simply be a statement to Mr. Putin that he was “less important than Sweden, with which Washington has no pressing bilateral issues.”

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