Obama’s cancellation on Wednesday of the upcoming summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin does not look like a wise decision. So argues Kline Preston, an attorney who studied in the Soviet Union and served as chairman of the foreign observers in the last Russian presidential election. Preston points out that the U.S. has not generally improved foreign relations after pulling the plug on negotiations, the examples of North Korea and Iran coming immediately to mind.
It appears the White House has decided to put off a Moscow summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. They’ve just announced this, citing a lack of progress in relations and what they called "disappointment” over the Edward Snowden affair. The White House Press Secretary Jay Carney released a statement saying, "Given our lack of progress on issues such as missile defense, the arms control, trade and commercial relations, global security issues, and human rights and civil society in the last twelve months, we have informed the Russian Government that we believe it would be more constructive to postpone the summit until we have more results from our shared agenda.” Russia has responded.
Putin’s top foreign policy aide, Yuri Ushakov, has said that "We are disappointed. It was clear to Moscow that the decision was linked to the fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, who has been granted asylum temporarily there.”
To talk more about this VoR spoke withKline Preston, attorney who studied in the Soviet Union, served as chairman of the foreign observers in the last Russian presidential election and also served as observer in the parliamentary election in 2011.
- This very important summit has been cancelled. Now the White House is saying, you know, Russia is slipping back into this Cold War mentality. First of all, do you think that there is any truth to that, and second, is it really the issue?
- I think we’re slipping back to a policy that’s kind of tit-for-tat. This policy appears to be vast. I think it’s disappointing that the White House would cancel this summit with President Putin over the Snowden affair, which, I think, we would have done the exact same thing. You know, there is a history of Russians defecting from Boris Shmakov to others. We didn’t expel them at the gates of JFK, we heralded them and made a big public spectacle of each of those people, so I don’t think that this really does anything to benefit the relationship for sure by cancelling the summit.
- The White House is saying, these are more global issues that we’re talking about, but if the Edward Snowden incident hadn’t happened, this summit would still be going on, right?
-I think, absolutely. This is a reactionary and I would say a knee-jerk reaction to the granting of asylum to Mr Snowden in Russia. And it certainly does not do anything to further our relationship.
- And, in fact, might actually hurt it, do you think? I mean, obviously, how can you bridge gaps when you are not meeting and talking things out.
- I think that’s exactly right. Our relations with other nations, whom we’ve cut off communications with, have not improved. You know, from Iran to North Korea, these countries that we don’t communicate with directly, our relationships don’t improve. And I think that’s the same with Russia – if we cease to communicate, it’s not going to improve the relationship and that’s pretty clear.
- Maybe the US had to make a point though, that here we have these differences with Russia, we find the Russian government, we find Vladimir Putin to be pretty obstinate and really kind of granting asylum was just his bigger slap in the face – hey, maybe in the past we have accepted the so-called political refugees from Russia as well, but in this particular case, this is somebody whom we are very concerned about.
-Well,sure we’re concerned about him and this goes to the heart of our relationship with Russia. This is an intelligence officer now, within the borders of Russia, being granted asylum there, but our relationship with Russia really should not be so contentious, it should be more of a partnership and issues like this should be dealt with more along the lines in the way our relationships with Israel is addressed. We provide Israel with aid. Why should the relationship with Russia be different than our relationship with Israel or any other NATO nations? Many of those nations while we were still partners and friends, they’re spying on us, so Russia should be in the same category, in my view.
- Some of those other countries had opportunity to offer asylum to Edward Snowden but they didn’t. It kind of suggests this is really a sticky point and it’s interesting, because obviously like you said all these other big issues, such as Syria, Palestinian issue, we can not talk about that because we have this problem with this one particular individual.
- I think, we can and should talk about other issues. This one individual is just one small component of a larger, much more complicated relationship that we have with Russia. Whether be in addressing issues of foreign trade or disputes in other countries like Syria, our relationship is and has been complex for a long time. And, you know, the advancement is complicated in large part due to actions of the US. I have to say it, because the advancement of NATO into former Warsaw Pact countries, those are pretty aggressive actions, in my view, and they the issues that arose from the war of Georgia, Georgia’s attempt and desire to join NATO and, keep in mind, Georgia is a former Soviet republic and so these are complicated issues. And we have many issues that are outside, kind of hot issues. Many of them don’t arise simply because we in the US would just go on about our business in our hemisphere. We’re involved in the former sphere that was part of the Soviet Union, so it’s going to complicate issues.