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Snowden row no hindrance to Obama’s presence at G20 summit but upsets meeting with Putin - analysts

August 07, 2013, 19:09 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara

MOSCOW, August 7 (Itar-Tass) - Russian experts are moderately optimistic about US President Barack Obama’s consent to take part in the G20 summit in St. Petersburg due in September. In the wake of Russia’s refusal to extradite runaway CIA employee Edward Snowden and the decision to grant him temporary asylum in Russia some officials in Washington called for moving the G20 summit elsewhere or sending the US vice-president to St. Petersburg instead. In the NBC’s Tonight Show on Tuesday Obama told the host, Jay Leno, he was going to the G20 summit in Russia personally.

Chief of the International Security Center at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) under the Russian Academy of Sciences, Alexei Arbatov, told ITAR-TASS in an interview Obama’s decision was a “manifestation of statesmanship.” “Obama is going to come to St. Petersburg in defiance of the tremendous pressures from the Republicans, the press and the public,” Arbatov said.

As for the plans for a Putin-Obama meeting in Moscow, the White House has just canceled it. US deputy presidential national security adviser Ben Rhodes said Russia’s decision to grant temporary asylum to Edward Snowden has complicated the already no simple US-Russian relations. The US keeps working with Russia on likely points of agreement. But in the opinion of the president and his team this summit is impossible in the current conditions, Rhodes said. The Kremlin has responded an expression of regret.

Arbatov believes that the real obstacle to Putin’s meeting with Obama is not the Snowden affair, but the general stagnation of Russian-US relations. Russia and the United States are unable to formulate a common position not only on the settlement in Syria, but on such global affairs as nuclear disarmament,” the analyst said.

The director of the US and Canada Studies Institute under the Russian Academy of Sciences, Sergei Rogov, has told ITAR-TASS in an interview Russia-US relations are in a very grave state.

“The Snowden row has turned into a factor for sharp complication of cooperation and put a big question mark over the beginning of a new phase of resetting. At their recent meeting on the sidelines of the G8 summit Putin and Obama agreed on a number of joint projects in the military-strategic sphere and in the economy. It remains unclear whether this agenda will be discussed. A great deal will depend on the forthcoming meeting of Russian and US foreign and defense ministers, Sergei Lavrov and John Kerry and Sergei Shoigu and Chuck Hagel due on Friday, Rogov said. “As long as Snowden is in Russia, it will be very risky for Obama to meet with Putin, because both the Republicans and the Democrats will tear him to pieces. In particular, this is true of Hillary Clinton, who hopes to contest the US presidency,” Rogov said. “Obama has to bear that in mind.”

The president of the Foreign and Defense Policy Council, Fyodor Lukyanov, has told Itar-Tass that in his opinion Obama and Putin may have a quick encounter on the sidelines of the G20 summit in St. Petersburg. Lukyanov, the editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs magazine, speculates that there may be only a brief meeting of Russian and US presidents, because the tensions over the Snowden case are still high.

“As long as the former CIA employee is in Russia, one can hardly expect anything good in bilateral relations. So a Putin-Obama meeting may be only a token, ritual one. They have no common agenda.” Asked by ITAR-TASS if he was a pessimist, Lukyanov replied, “I am a realist.