President Barack Obama took the right step to cancel his September meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and should pursue further action against Moscow, according to a Wall Street Journal editorial
Politically, the decision was "the only one he could make and not look like a patsy," Journal said Thursday. "The question is whether this is merely a symbolic rebuke or the beginning of a policy shift that recognizes the Putin regime's hostility to American interests."
The immediate trigger for Obama's move was Putin's decision last week to grant political asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.
That decision is "reflective of some underlying challenges that we've had with Russia lately," Obama said
on "The Tonight Show" Tuesday. While "there's still a lot of business that we can do with them, there have been times where they slip back into Cold War thinking."
On Wednesday,White House press secretary Jay Carney laid out other problems with the relationship, including "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."
But there's even more that's straining relations between Moscow and Washington, the Journal noted.
"He should have included Russia's military and diplomatic support for Syrian President Bashar Assad . . . . All of this is the beginning of foreign policy realism for Mr. Obama, who has courted Mr. Putin to a fault and ignored his every provocation," the editorial said.
Obama still plans to go to the G-20 meeting in Russia next month, where the unilateral talk with Putin was supposed to take place. The Journal suggested he send Vice President Joe Biden instead.
The White House has to make clear it's not business as usual on arms control and other issues, the Journal noted.
"We hope that . . . Mr. Putin begins to understand that there are costs to his anti-American behavior," the editorial continued, adding that the Russian president has held meetings with Obama only "to cultivate the domestic illusion that Russia remains a great power."
The Journal also recommended that Obama should "expand the existing U.S. sanctions against Russian human-rights offenders" and "speak up about the kangaroo court treatment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny."
"As long as Mr. Putin's Russia behaves as an adversary of the U.S., Mr. Obama should treat it accordingly," the Journal concluded.
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