President of the American University in Moscow and Professor of World Politics at Moscow State University
According to some media reports, Obama has already decided to cancel the meeting with Putin in Moscow, originally planned as part of his visit to the G20 Summit to be held September 5-6, 2013 in St. Petersburg. There has been no official confirmation, but it looks more and more likely that at least the Moscow visit will indeed be scrapped.
Nothing has so far been said about a possible cancellation of Obama's participation in the G20 meeting; however, several U.S. policymakers, some public figures and the media have spoken strongly in favor of him doing just that. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) went even further by suggesting that the whole G20 meeting be moved from St. Petersburg to another country.
The main reason for this extravaganza is said to be the Snowden affair. It appears though that, Snowden or no Snowden, the same politicos and the same media would have found some other arguments to call for boycotting Russia anyway.
One can understand why politicians are playing this game. Chuck Schumer, who rarely gets any media attention at all, is now all over TV, radio and newspapers urging Obama not to meet Putin who, he says, behaves like a "schoolyard bully" and "is always going out of his way to poke America in the eye.”
What about the media? Conspiracy theories and suspicions of corruption aside, U.S. media almost unanimously blame Obama for his spineless Russia policy and demand outright that anti-Putin rhetoric be toughened because of Russia’s "backsliding on democracy.” In addition, the media demands that U.S. must support the political opposition and its latest addition – the gay community which are mercilessly persecuted by the Putin’s regime.
In this black-and-white world, the situation around Edward Snowden - a fugitive whistleblower to some Americans and Europeans but traitor to others - just does not fit the generally accepted scheme. U.S. public opinion is almost equally divided, but the media and even some conservatives are leaning more toward the whistleblower definition. Thus there is this challenging conundrum: why would a brave fighter for the observance of U.S. Constitution choose to seek asylum in that dreadful Putin's Russia?
Scott Perry (R-PA) thinks that Snowden is a traitor - despite the fact that he acted to uphold the American people's "right to know" about the surveillance programs. A traitor, says Perry in his Voice of Russia interview, because he "informed foreign journalists about the NSA misdemeanors instead of revealing that information congressionally."
Forty years ago, Soviet authorities brought the same accusation against the "GULAG whistleblower" Alexander Solzhenitsyn. In fact Brezhnev and his Politburo cronies did not deny that what Solzhenitsyn wrote in his book "The GULAG Archipelago" was true - they just regretted the fact that Solzhenitsyn, then a Soviet citizen, did not use home channels for his revelations. It looks like history repeats itself, with U.S. Congressman repeating, word for word, the phraseology of Soviet Politburo rulers.
On the larger picture since there is much suspense as to whether Obama will make his trip to Moscow or even to St. Petersburg because of Snowden affair one should ask what is in the best interests of the United States - for Obama to go to Russia or not to go?
Let us admit that this unfortunate affair was not initiated by Russia but by a former CIA employee. During the many years U.S. had and still has plenty of KGB or FSB defectors and the Russians never used this as an excuse to cancel the summits or even routine bilateral meetings.
Taking into account how many crucial issues for the U.S. security and economy are to be discussed during the upcoming meetings one would think that Obama should take a high road and think about country’s strategic interests first and therefore definitely go to Russia.