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article imageOp-Ed: US president Obama cancels meeting with Putin at G20 summit

By Ken Hanly     Aug 7, 2013 in Politics
Washington - President Obama has canceled plans to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin In Moscow in September. Apparently, the move is meant to be retaliation for Russia granting temporary asylum to National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The US is also angered about Russian positions on missile defense, Syria, and human rights issues. Obama still plans to attend the G20 summit in St. Petersburg. Instead of visiting Putin in Moscow, Obama will make a stop in Sweden. Putin and Obama met in June at the Group of 8 meeting In Ireland. Senator Schumer went so far as to urge Obama to have the site of the September summit moved outside of Russia.
Ben Rhodes, the White House deputy national security adviser directly tied Obama's decision to granting temporary asylum to Snowden. He said Putin's decision only worsened an already "troubled relationship." It is not clear to me why worsening relations should lead to canceling talks. They seem a good reason to have talks. Canceling talks itself worsens relations. Putin was not threatening to cancel talks due to issues he has with the US. Rhodes said: "We'll still work with Russia on issues where we can find common ground, but it was the unanimous view of the president and his national security team that a summit did not make sense in the current environment,"
The US also accuses Putin of helping Bashar Assad fund a civil war. But equally the US is helping to fund the rebels. Russia and the US did agree to convene a conference to try to negotiate a political solution to the conflict but given the situation in Syria and the frosty relations between Russia and the US this conference will no doubt be planned for far in the future if it goes ahead at all.
The US also imposed visa and financial sanctions on 18 Russians it accused of human rights violations. Perhaps in response, Putin banned US adoptions of Russian children after some abuses happened.
Russia is also in conflict with the US over a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe that Russia sees as directed against it in spite of US assurances to the contrary. Obama claimed to be disappointed by Russia's move to grant Snowden asylum for a year. On the NBC Obama said: "There have been times where they slip back into Cold War thinking and a Cold War mentality," It is hard to see how granting Snowden asylum has anything to do with the Cold War. Ironically it is the old Evil Empire successor who is now protecting a US dissident against the US judicial system which would be certain to send Snowden away to a US prison for a long period.
John Kerry, Secretary of State and Chuck Hagel the Defense Secretary are still scheduled to meet their Russian counterparts on Friday. The US needs Russian help in transporting troops and equipment out of Afghanistan and no doubt there will be discussion of Syria as well.
Putin has actually seen dealing with Snowden as a rather thankless and unproductive task: "In any case, I would not like to deal with such issues because it is like shearing a pig, There's lots of squealing, and little fleece." To switch animals for a minute, the Russian Bear standing up to the American Eagle may provoke a lot of screeches and flapping of wings, but it will make Putin more popular in Russia.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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