President Obama cancelled his scheduled upcoming meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin because of tensions over Russia granting former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden asylum, the Associated Press reports. The two leaders were to meet separately while Obama was in the country for the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, at the beginning of September. The President still plans to attend the summit, but instead of meeting with Putin, he'll make a stop in Sweden before heading to St. Petersburg. "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," said Press Secretary Jay Carney in a statement. He went on to list a number of reasons for cancelling the trip, not just Snowden tensions.
Russia granted the NSA leaker temporary asylum for at least year after Snowden was stuck in a waiting area at the Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow for over a month. He was permitted to stay in Russia while seeking a temporary home elsewhere, despite being one of America's most wanted fugitives.
Obama spoke very briefly about his relationship with Russia last night on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Obama said he was "disappointed" in Russia after they granted Snowden asylum. "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," he said.
Here's the full statement from Carney:
Following a careful review begun in July, we have reached the conclusion that there is not enough recent progress in our bilateral agenda with Russia to hold a U.S.-Russia Summit in early September. We value the achievements made with Russia in the President’s first term, including the New START Treaty, and cooperation on Afghanistan, Iran, and North Korea. However, 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 twelve 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. 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. Our cooperation on these issues remains a priority for the United States, so on Friday, August 9, Secretaries Hagel and Kerry will meet with their Russian counterparts in a 2+2 format in Washington to discuss how we can best make progress moving forward on the full range of issues in our bilateral relationship.
Update, 11:32 p.m. And the Kremlin has weighed in on the matter, finally, and they're disappointed the meeting won't happen too. This is the bulk of presidential aide Yury Ushakov's statement on the matter:
“We are disappointed by the US administration’s decision to cancel the visit of President Obama to Moscow that was planned for the beginning of September. It is clear that the decision is related to the situation around the former intelligence agency employee Snowden – something that was created not by us,” Ushakov told reporters on Wednesday.