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Obama Turns Down Meeting With Russian President Putin Over Snowden Scandal

Obama Turns Down Meeting With Russian President Putin Over Snowden Scandal

President Barack Obama had decided to cancel a meeting he was scheduled to have with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in September, largely due to the scandal relating to intelligence leaker Edward Snowden and the temporary asylum he was granted by Russia.

"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," the White House said in an official statement on Wednesday.

The White House said that among several issues in which there was a lack of progress, the U.S. and Russia have failed to agree on missile defense and arms control, trade and commercial relations, global security issues, and human rights and civil society.

"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," the statement added.

The U.S. has criticized Russia for its decision to grant temporary asylum to Snowden, a 29-year-old former C.I.A. computer technician who in June came forward as the individual who leaked sensitive top-secret information about National Security Agency surveillance programs and the people they were targeting.

"My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them," explained Snowden, who works for defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton.

The technician revealed that the U.S. has been collecting data on phone calls made on the Verizon network, as well as spying on foreigners using major companies like Microsoft, Google, and Apple.

Obama, however, has said that Snowden has broken the law and that he needs to be brought to America to face the consequences.

"Even though we don't have an extradition treaty with them, traditionally, we have tried to respect if there's a law breaker or alleged law breaker in their country. We evaluate it, and we try to work with them," the U.S. president reflected on the issue during NBC's "The Tonight Show" Tuesday.

"They didn't do that with us, and in some ways it's reflective of some underlying challenges that we've had with Russia lately."

Russia has said that it is disappointed that Obama will not be visiting Moscow for the U.S.-Russia Summit, though foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov argued that the U.S. is not to blame for the situation.

"It is clear that his decision is connected to a situation not created by us, around the former intelligence employee Snowden," Ushakov told journalists, and insisted that Russia is "prepared to continue working with [our] American partners on all key issues on the bilateral and multilateral agenda."

Veteran Kremlin-watcher Fyodor Lukyanov shared in an analysis on NBC News that the Snowden scandal goes to the heart of Russia-U.S. tensions, and that Putin decided to grant the former CIA worker asylum in order to show that his country is in charge of east-west relationships.

Lukyanov said: "If Putin cares about nothing else, he cares about how the Third World thinks about Russia. And the Third World sees Snowden as a hero who spilled the beans on imperialist America. Putin is sensitive to that. There's too much at stake not to be."

Obama is still expected to attend the G-20 Summit which takes place in St. Petersburg on September 5-6.


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