File photo Carolyn Kaster/AP/Press Association Images
Cooling Off

Obama cancels Putin summit, says Russia displaying a new "Cold War" mentality

Washington has called off a one-on-one meeting between the two leaders, which had been due to take place on the fringes of next month’s G20 summit.

US PRESIDENT BARACK Obama has scrapped a Moscow summit with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, with the White House citing a lack of progress in relations and ‘disappointment’ over the Edward Snowden affair.

The rare decision to cancel the talks set for next month came after Obama accused the Russians of slipping back “into a Cold War mentality,” in an interview with TV talk show host Jay Leno aired last night.

Washington however did not slam the door on cooperation with Russia, noting that a meeting of foreign and defence ministers scheduled for later this week would go ahead as planned in the US capital.

In Moscow, the Kremlin said it was “disappointed” with the decision, saying Washington was not ready to build ties with Russia on an “equal basis,” and insisted the invitation to Obama still stands.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said that while the United States valued what had been accomplished with Russia in Obama’s first term, especially on Afghanistan and North Korea, there had not been enough progress to warrant a summit in early September.

“Given our lack of progress on issues such as missile defense and 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,” Carney said, adding:

Russia’s disappointing decision to grant Edward Snowden temporary asylum was also a factor that we considered in assessing the current state of our bilateral relationship.

The White House had for weeks hinted that the summit on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit in Saint Petersburg was in doubt, as ties with Russia deteriorated.

Moscow last week granted a year’s temporary asylum to Snowden, a former US intelligence contractor who revealed the existence of US electronic surveillance programs that scoop phone and Internet data on a global scale.

Snowden — who is facing espionage charges in the United States and whose passport has been revoked — was last week allowed to relocate to a secret safe house after being marooned in Moscow’s airport for five weeks.

Other troublesome issues in the US-Russia relationship include Moscow’s support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and a split over how to deal with Iran over its nuclear program.

The White House said Obama still planned to attend the G20 summit on September 5-6, and announced he would visit Stockholm before heading to Russia.

In last night’s interview with Leno on The Tonight Show, Obama said Moscow was still being helpful on Afghanistan and counter-terrorism, but spoke of “underlying challenges” in the relationship:

There have been times where they slip back into Cold War thinking and a Cold War mentality.

“What I consistently say to them, and what I say to President Putin, is that’s the past, and we’ve got to think about the future, and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to cooperate more effectively than we do”, Obama added.

Watch President Obama’s interview with Leno here:

YouTube: Worthy Newscast

- © AFP, 2013

Read: Stephen Fry compares Putin to Hitler, calls for Olympics to be moved from Russia >

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