US President Barak Obama finally decided to cancel his meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin in September, as predicted when Russia granted asylum to Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who leaked to the press data about the agency’s surveillance programs and is the center of a diplomatic turmoil between the two countries.
The white House announced the decision in a statement and Obama himself commented the situation during an interview with comedian Jay Leno in the Tonight Show. He said he was “disappointed” when Russia granted asylum to Snowden and accused Russia to slip back into “Cold War mentality”.
“Because even though we don’t have an extradition treaty with them, traditionally we have tried to respect if there’s a law-breaker or an alleged law-breaker in their country, we evaluate it and we try to work with them. 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. A lot of what’s been going on hasn’t been major breaks in the relationship, and they still help us on supplying our troops in Afghanistan; they’re still helping us on counterterrorism work; they were helpful after the Boston bombing in that investigation. And so there’s still a lot of business that we can do with them. ”
“But there have been times where they slip back into Cold War thinking and a Cold War mentality. And what I consistently say to them, and what I say to President Putin, is that’s the past and we’ve got to think about the future, and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to cooperate more effectively than we do”.
Precisely now that the situation between the two countries is tense there is more need of contacts and direct conversations. Obama will let the talks to a lower level officials, the White House statement says, and on Friday, “Secretaries Hagel and Kerry will meet with their Russian counterparts in a 2+2 format in Washington to discuss how we can best make progress moving forward on the full range of issues in our bilateral relations”. But relations are obviously damaged after the Snowden incident that triggered this last reaction by the Obama administration. And then judging by european standards is difficult to understand that the US president explained this sensitive situation in an interview in a comedian TV show. The interview was serious, but still…
Obama explained to Leno that he will go to the G20 Summit in St Petersburg in Russia in September where Putin will be the host.
“I will be going to that. I will be going to that because the G20 summit is the main forum where we talk about the economy, the world economy, with all the top economic powers in the world. So it’s not something unique to Russia. They’re hosting it this year, but it’s important for us, as the leading economy in the world, to make sure that we’re there — in part because creating jobs, improving our economy, building up our manufacturing base, increasing wages — all those things now depend on how we compete in this global economy. And when you’ve got problems in Europe, or China is slowing down, that has an impact here in the United States.
And I’ve been saying for the entire tenure of my presidency that my number-one priority at all times is how do we create an economy where, if you work hard in this country, you can succeed. And there are a lot of things that we can do here in this country, but we’ve also got to pay attention to what’s going on outside it.”
It will be an awkward diplomatic situation, with Putin as host and Obama not willing to talk with him.
About Snowden Obama say to Leno that:
“Hopefully, at some point he’ll go to trial and he will have a lawyer and due process, and we can make those decisions”.
“I can tell you that there are ways, if you think that the government is abusing a program, of coming forward. In fact, I, through executive order, signed whistleblower protection for intelligence officers or people who are involved in the intelligence industry. So you don’t have to break the law. You don’t have to divulge information that could compromise American security. You can come forward, come to the appropriate individuals and say, look, I’ve got a problem with what’s going on here, I’m not sure whether it’s being done properly”.
“If, in fact, the allegations are true, then he didn’t do that. And that is a huge problem because a lot of what we do depends on terrorists networks not knowing that, in fact, we may be able to access their information.”