Obama may skip G20 over Snowden issue
Washington (AFP): The White House is considering cancelling a fall G20 Summit summit between President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir...
Washington (AFP): The White House is considering cancelling a fall G20 Summit summit between President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on September 5-6, a move that would further aggravate the already tense relationship between the two leaders. The White House is dangling that option over the Russians as Moscow considers a temporary asylum petition from Edward Snowden, the American accused of leaking information about classified US intelligence programs. But officials have privately signalled that scrapping the bilateral talks would also be retaliation for other areas of disagreement with Russia, including its continued support for Syrian President Bashar Al Assad's attacks against civilians. By simply considering cancellation of the trip, the Obama administration is indicating its concern the Kremlin will allow Snowden to take refuge in Russia. The White House has called on Russia to return the 30-year-old former government contract systems analyst to the US where he is facing espionage charges. Andrew Kuchins, director of the Russia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the White House's cancellation threat could be effective leverage over Putin, who likely wants to avoid an embarrassment on the world stage. Pulling the plug on the US-Russia talks would deepen the tensions between the two. And it may make it even more difficult for the two countries to find common ground on areas of disagreement that plague the relationship. The US accuses Russia of providing military support to Assad that has allowed him to cling to power during more than two years of clashes with rebels seeking to overthrow his government. The US deeply angered Russia earlier this year when it announced sanctions against 18 Russians as part of a law named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who was arrested in 2008 for tax evasion after accusing Russian police officials of stealing $230 million in tax rebates. Russia also announced last year that it was banning US adoptions of Russian children, a move seen as a retaliation for the Magnitsky act, passed last year. On Thursday, the White House also said it was "deeply disappointed and concerned" by the conviction of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. This would not be the first canceled Obama-Putin meeting. Last year, when Obama hosted the Group of 8 summit at Camp David, Putin stayed home, saying he was too busy in Moscow finalizing his new cabinet.