U.S. President Barack Obama has cancelled a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow that was scheduled for September. However, the American leader does not intend to cancel his visit to St. Petersburg to attend the Group of Twenty (G20) summit. Experts talks about the relations’ serious cooling.
If talks between the two leaders don’t take place, it will certainly not be a full-scale international scandal (such as the U.S. President’s absence at the summit with participation of the heads of all the leading nations), the Novye Izevstia newspaper writes. Neither this demarche will brighten up the already far from cloudless U.S.-Russian relations.
Experts believe that the U.S. President has made the right choice. “Petty conflicts should not hamper political decision making, and the American President realizes this too well. Had he refused from attending the G20 summit, the United States would be automatically excluded from most important decision makers in the international stage,” Centre for Political Information Director General Alexei Mukhin told the newspaper. The expert also noted that both sides are interested in a separate meeting between the two presidents, and the situation with Snowden is not an obstacle, but just another issue for discussion.
The Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily writes that the refusal from the visit reflects not only Washington’s discontent with Moscow’s stance on Edward Snowden’s case, but also on missile defense issue, on reduction in strategic arsenals, on Syrian crisis and on human rights in Russia. The Kremlin stated on Washington’s decision that “the United States is still not ready to build relations on an equal basis.” Moscow’s stance was voiced by RF presidential aide Yuri Ushakov. He also stressed that “the U.S. president has been and is still invited to visit Russia.”
The Russian side believes that linking the summit prospect with the fate of the former CIA and National Security Agency (NSA) employee is unjustified. “The U.S. administration is challenging the summit-level bilateral contact because of the Snowden affair. It seems to me that it is just an absolute distortion of reality, a funhouse mirror world outlook,” believes RF Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. From Moscow’s viewpoint, “the usefulness of the summit contact is self-evident, the more so that the agenda of this contact and its possible results are discussed in detail with the American partners.”
The summit’s cancellation has not affected the plans of the “2+2” bilateral meeting between RF Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. The White House confirmed on Wednesday that it will take place. U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki stated on Tuesday that in addition to the “Snowden affair,” the officials will discuss a new treaty on nuclear arms reduction, the situation in Afghanistan, the Iranian nuclear program and efforts aimed at the Syrian conflict settlement. “We expect a very intensive conversation, the more so that there are rather many acute, disputable and difficult issues,” Ryabkov pointed out with regard to the meeting.
The decision of the White House is caused not only by “the Snowden affair,” but also by the fact that Washington realizes that it is impossible to reach a breakthrough on the issues designated as key ones by the U.S. president - reduction of the nuclear arsenals and missile defense, the Kommersanrt daily writes. According to experts, this testifies not only to just another cooling in bilateral relations, but also to the change of objectives in the U.S. foreign policy: in essence, the United States excludes Russia from its priorities at least until 2017. Kommersant’s sources in the Kremlin also talk about “freezing.”
However, in the view of American experts, the Kommersant daily writes, the events trend not just towards a new cooling in relations between the two countries. Steven Pifer, a former high-ranking diplomat, currently a leading expert at Brookings Institution, believes that the cancellation of the Moscow meeting means that relations with the RF president have become “insignificant” for Barack Obama from the viewpoint of his priorities for the second office term. In the view of the expert, the Snowden affair has become just a culmination of the process that emerged a year ago.
A Kommersant source in the Kremlin indirectly confirms this. According to him, “The Snowden affair is only a pretext for cancelling the meeting.” “The Americans are dodging serious negotiations,” he explained. “Their refusal will inevitably have political consequences - the “freezing” period will come in the relations.”