President Obama has canceled a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin a day after tensions were raised by Russia’s decision to grant temporary asylum to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Snowden faces espionage charges from the US government after he leaked documents detailing NSA surveillance programs. The US has been discouraging other countries from granting him asylum. Snowden had been living in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport for several weeks because the US revoked his passport, before Russia granted him status as a temporary refugee, allowing him to stay in the country until July 31, 2014.
In a “Tonight Show” interview with Jay Leno, Obama said that there are times that Russia “slips back into Cold War thinking and Cold War mentality” and that he was disappointed with Russia’s decision to not extradite Snowden back to the US.
In the same interview Obama stated that the US government does not have a domestic spying program and he supports the NSA surveillance efforts as a “critical component of counterterrorism.”
Russian foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, said during a press phone call that Obama’s move indicates that the US and Russia could not develop ties on an “equal basis” and that they were “disappointed” by Obama’s cancellation.
Ushakov went on to say that the Snowden situation was not created by Russia and the US has avoiding signing an extradition agreement with Russia for many years, invariably pointing to the lack of such an agreement when denying Russian requests for extradition of people who have committed crimes in the territory of Russia, the BBC reported.
“Russian representatives are ready to continue working together with American partners on all key issues on the bilateral and multilateral agenda,” Ushakov said, indicating that the invitation for the bilateral summit was still open.
Obama still plans to attend the upcoming G20 economic talks in St. Petersburg., which will take place Sept. 5-6.
Jesse Farthing is a guest blogger with Ring of Fire.