Earlier today, the White House announced that President Barack Obama canceled the meeting with President Vladimir Putin that is scheduled for the G-20 Summit in St. Petersburg next month. Earlier this month Russia gave asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
Prior to bowing out of meeting President Putin, the White House led many to believe that President Obama wouldn’t go through with the meeting before it was confirmed. During his highly publicized appearance on The Tonight Show, Obama told host Jay Leno, “There are times when they slip back into Cold War thinking and Cold War mentality. What I continually say to them and to President Putin, that’s the past.”
Jay Carney, the White House’s spokesman, said that the call was made after the administration came to the decision that “there is not enough recent progress in our bilateral agenda with Russia” to warrant the meeting at this stage. It was also mentioned that the White House would meet with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Russian officials in a bid to “discuss how we can best make progress moving forward on the full range of issues in our bilateral relationship.”
In the statement issued about President Obama passing on the meeting with President Putin several reasons were given—all relating to problems on lingering issues the two countries were having. “Given our lack of progress on issues such as missile defense and arms control, trade and commercial relations, global security issues, and human rights and civil society in the last 12 months, we have informed the Russian government that we believe it would be more constructive to postpone the summit until we have more results from our shared agenda.”
Not surprisingly, it was also mentioned that Russia’s stance on granting Edward Snowden temporary asylum was another element—most likely the main element—that played into this decision:
“Russia’s disappointing decision to grant Edward Snowden temporary asylum was also a factor that we considered in assessing the current state of our bilateral relationship.”
President Obama is scheduled for Stockholm on September 4 and 5 before heading to St. Petersburg. Sweden is seen as having a “key leadership role on the international stage, including in opening new trade and investment opportunities through the U.S.-EU trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, advancing clean technologies, and promoting environmental sustainability,” according to a statement issued by the White House today.