President Obama Cancels Russian Summit

The tension was palpable during the Group of 8 summit in Ireland this June.
Credit: The New Yorker

Frosty relations between Russia and the U.S. cooled down even more this week with the cancellation of a bilateral meeting between President Obama and Vladimir Putin. The White House’s announcement of the snub comes just days after Russia decided to grant American fugitive Edward Snowden political asylum- a move that U.S. officials promised would carry ‘consequences’ despite the fact that it was widely expected.

The Moscow visit was intended to be a symbolic, one-on-one Kremlin meeting between Obama and Putin ahead of next month’s Group of 20 economic summit, also hosted by Russia.

However, the fresh batch of diplomatic headache sparked by Snowden’s new home is simply the straw that broke the camel’s back. Analysts agree that U.S.-Russian relations have chilled to the point that such a meeting would be futile.

Cracks in the Cold War frienemies’ bond have opened up over issues like the Kremlin’s support of Syria, increasing crackdown on dissent, missile defense and arms control, trade and commercial terms, global security issues, and human rights, especially over the past year.

Curiously, Obama and Putin firmed up plans for the September summit back in June during a ministerial meeting in Northern Ireland. Although some of the press photographs out of the meeting reflected the icy affections the men have for each other, they parted on amicable-if shaky-terms. Yet according to Jay Carney’s statement on Wednesday, the White House began a ‘careful review’ in July, the very next month, of how the U.S.-Russian relationship had unfolded over the past year-a review that ultimately lead to the dramatic cancellation.

As a veto-able member of the United Nations Security Council and member of almost every major diplomatic, economic, and political forum, Russia wields disproportionate international influence given its post-Cold War military and economic clout.

Obama’s cold shoulder drudged up memories from the summer of 2012, when Putin canceled a trip to the U.S. for the G8 summit. Officials insisted then that the move was not a snub, despite the fact that the summit location had been moved from Chicago to Camp David just to accomodate the Russian leader. Putin sent Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev in his place.

Putin’s foreign affairs adviser told journalists that the Kremlin was disappointed with the decision, blaming it on the Snowden affair and claiming that Moscow was not at fault for housing the NSA leaker.


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