Alexei Nikolsky, AP
Earlier today, President Obama announced that the planned summit between him and Russian President Vladimir Putin in September was canceled. The news comes amidst the revelation that Edward Snowden, wanted by the U.S. for leaking classified information regarding the NSA, has been given asylum by Russia, whose airport he has been staying in for the past few months.
The New York Times asked just yesterday what the point of having a conference between the two leaders actually was — with their relations becoming noticeably icy over the past few months. “On top of all the other legitimate grievances with Mr. Putin’s policies came his decision to essentially stick a thumb in Mr. Obama’s eye by granting asylum to Edward Snowden, the man who disclosed to the world the National Security Agency sweeps of Americans’ telephone records. Under the circumstances, the only outcome of a summit meeting would be to add to Mr. Putin’s domestic political capital and his already considerable self-esteem.” Well, it would seem as though Obama reads the Times.
“Sometimes being president is all about making the least worst decision. Sometimes for President Obama, being president means making the least embarrassing decision,” says Ed Rogers at the Washington Post. Sure, while it’s never ideal for heads of state to so publicly feud with each other, “the only thing more embarrassing than canceling the meeting with Putin would be to have the meeting with Putin. When cameras are rolling, the Russian president, who won’t even return Obama’s phone calls, can be expected to look bored, indifferent and bothered by the presence of the president of the United States.”
Aljazeera’s Danny Schechter takes note of the personal aspect of relations between the U.S. and Russia lately. “When heads of state personally intervene in matters of espionage, and demand that alleged spies be released or extradited, it is unusual — and highly inappropriate.”
“It seems clear that President Obama violated that 'old rule' by immersing himself so publicly, personally, and blatantly with White House pressure on Vladimir Putin to send the American whistleblower Edward Snowden back to the US, in the spirit of a Monopolygame: to 'go directly to jail without passing go.'”
“With the Announcement that the President will not meet with Putin during his forthcoming visit to the G20 meeting in Russia, because he is 'disappointed with the Russian Leader,' we seem to have taken a walk back down memory lane to the cold war days of tit for tat actions and reactions that elevate tensions.”
Of course, there are far more reasons to cancel the summit than just becasue of Snowden, according to the Christian Science Monitor’s editorial board. “Mr. Putin often acts as if Russia is in a competition of geopolitical interests rather than values. When Edward Snowden sought asylum after stealing official American secrets, the Kremlin — which has few compunctions about domestic surveillance — treated the fugitive as merely a pawn in a global power play. In Syria, Putin sees little value in ending the mass slaughter if it means giving up a key naval port or Russian influence in the Middle East. Power almost always trumps principles. National interest comes before universal ideals.”
Putin has certainly never hidden his disinterest in working with the United States on issues that directly contradict Russia’s geopolitical security. “On a host of values important to the US and indeed much of the world — nuclear nonproliferation, human rights in Russia, and adherence to free-trade pacts — the White House is so disappointed that it is 'assessing the current state of our bilateral relationship.'”
Only time will tell if the two leaders will be able to thaw the ice surrounding their international relations.
Freeman Stevenson is a Snow College grad and is the DeseretNews.com opinion intern. Reach me at fstevenson@deseretdigital or @freemandesnews
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