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Mr. President: Go Ahead and Snub Putin, But Not over Snowden

President Obama announced today that his planned summit with Vladimir Putin in Moscow was canceled. The proximate cause appeared to be Russia granting NSA leaker Edward Snowden asylum last week:

Although U.S. frustration with Moscow has been growing over other key issues such as missile defense and human rights, it was Russia’s decision to grant Snowden asylum in defiance of Obama’s repeated requests that dealt the latest blow to uneasy U.S. relations with a former Cold War foe.

Our friend David Kramer has written eloquently elsewhere on this site some of the reasons that President Obama might take a pass on this summit with Putin, arguing among other things that Snowden is the least pressing of reasons to do so. We agree with the substance of David’s argument, though we would focus more on geopolitics than on just human rights issues. Overall, we’re glad to see that the administration is looking for ways to convey a tougher posture to the Russians, who have been running circles around the administration on so many fronts. (See, for example, the reports today that Saudi Arabia was offering a sweet military deal to the Russians, if only they would ease back on their support for Assad in Syria.) But what we need is a more resolute and focused policy, not temper tantrums in response to a series of humiliations.

There are many valid reasons for President Obama to avoid a face-to-face meeting with Putin given the lack of any substantive progress with Russia on a whole series of subjects. The explicit linkage between the summit cancellation and Snowden makes us look whiny and ineffectual and should be kept off the table.

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  • Pete

    So what should Obama snub Putin for, not having an adequate level of sensitivity towards the feelings of homosexuals at the upcoming Winter Olympics in Russia?

    It might be part of Obama’s rational given his childish appearance on Leno the other night.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Given how childish Obama’s behavior has been, I’m expecting him to try holding his breath until he gets his way.

  • FrankArden

    This so-called snub will have no lasting effect of any importance whatsoever.

    A strong president would have gone to the summit, enjoyed all the diplomatic pomp afforded a visiting head of state, met with Putin and given him hell in private meetings.

    At the press conference at the end of the summit, he could stand next to Putin, with all the dignity and gravitas of an American president, and tell him politely to his face and to the world exactly what needs to be said about his lack of cooperation in Iran, his support for the Syrian Butcher Assad, his undermining of international interests in the Middle East, and his crackdown on civil rights in Russia where his countrymen suffer under a corrupt regime.

    Then shake hands while a red-faced Putin melts on a cold and icy stage.

    Wanna play “Cold War” Vlad? We remember how to play that game. In fact, we beat you at it twenty-five years ago.

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