Obama cancels Putin summit amid Snowden tensions

By Matthew Lee

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 7 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

But he said he does not think that Putin wants to "trash" the U.S.-Russia relationship and doesn't think relations are as bad as they were after the Georgia war in the fall of 2008 and 2009. In 2008, Georgia and Russia fought a brief war after Georgia launched an intense artillery barrage on the capital of South Ossetia, and Mikhail Saakashvili, the president of the former Soviet republic, forged a deeper relationship with the U.S.

"That was a pretty dangerous moment for the relationship," Kuchins said. "Right now, I don't see such a dangerous moment in the relationship, but we have some fundamental disagreements on nuclear security, missile defense, Syria. I don't think the Russians are taking positions just to counter us, undermine us. But they have some fundamental differences. They have a different way of looking at some things."

Ivo Daalder, former U.S. ambassador to NATO and now president of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, said some positive steps have come from the reset, including Russia's willingness to help the U.S. transport military materiel in and out of Afghanistan.

"There still is cooperation on areas like Iran where Russia voted four times in the U.N. Security Council to impose new sanctions," Daalder said. "There is cooperation on North Korea — Russia has voted for new sanctions. And those are material, positive steps in the relationship that have been the result of the reset."

But he said that a reset also suggests a future relationship and that despite meetings Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and former National Security Adviser Tom Donilon have had with Russian officials, there has been little progress on Syria, nuclear arms reduction and missile defense issues.

In April, Obama asked Donilon to hand-deliver a letter to Putin, proposing new ways to cooperate. Putin's foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, said Obama's letter was "quite constructive" and contained specific proposals regarding arms control and economic cooperation.

But Daalder said Russia's responses to the letter have been "either nonexistent or negative."

Putin and Obama last met in June, on the sidelines of the summit of the Group of 8 industrial nations.

Putin said then that he believed the U.S. and Russia had an "opportunity to move forward on most sensitive directions."

Obama said then that the two nations were poised to increase trade and investment and had pledged to continue to work together to counter potential threats of proliferation and to enhance nuclear security.

"I think this is an example of the kind of constructive, cooperative relationship that moves us out of a Cold War mindset," Obama said.

That was just seven weeks ago.

On Tuesday, a day before he canceled his meeting with Putin, Obama said on NBC's "The Tonight Show" that there have been times where the Russians "slip back into Cold War thinking and a Cold War mentality."

Associated Press White House Correspondent Julie Pace contributed to this report.

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