Obama Ponders Cancelling Putin Meeting Over Snowden Friction

Thursday, 18 Jul 2013 05:02 PM

By Andrea Billups

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Friction between the United States and Russia over the fugitive security leaker Edward Snowden has caused President Barack Obama to consider cancelling a scheduled meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

With the former National Security contractor continuing his stay at a Moscow airport as he appeals to the country for asylum, Obama may forgo a meeting with Putin that he had scheduled in June, The New York Times reported.

Tension remains high between the two leaders as Obama seeks a return of Snowden and Putin ponders allowing the government security whistleblower to stay in his country. It adds to a growing drama that has driven a wedge between the U.S. and Russia amid broader concerns over arms negotiations, a missile defense program, and strategies moving forward on Syria and Iran, the Times reported.

Obama had previously planned on the Moscow stop as part of a planned trip to St. Petersburg for the Group of 20 nations.

White House spokesman Jay Carney hedged when asked about the proposed trip.

"I can say that the president intends to travel to Russia for the G-20 summit," Carney said told reporters at the White House on Thursday. "I don’t have anything to add to what we’ve said in the past about that trip."

The Times noted that Obama could save the talks as a sidebar discussion during the G-20 meetings.

Putin, who has called the U.S. hypocritical amid the spying disclosures, said Wednesday he didn't want to stymie dialogue, the Times reported.

"Bilateral relations, in my opinion, are far more important than squabbles about the activities of the secret services," Putin said.

Critics of the White House's handling of the Snowden affair have asked Obama to step up the pressure to bring him home, noting that the president should consider moving the summit out of Russia altogether.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, speaking with CNN's Jake Tapper on Wednesday, encouraged the president to be more forceful with Russia. He has also encouraged Obama to boycott the Olympic Games set for Sochi in 2014.

"President Obama, should you go to St. Petersburg, Russia, for the G-20 summit if they give Snowden asylum and they don’t change their policy toward Syria and continue to help Iran?" Graham said on CNN. "Should you go? My advice to you is I wouldn’t go to St. Petersburg. I would ask for a change of venue."

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