MOSCOW — Russian officials said they were unhappy with President Obama’s decision to cancel a summit meeting in the wake of the Kremlin’s decision to grant temporary asylum to Edward Snowden, but that the Americans were largely hurting themselves.
“We are dissatisfied with the U.S. administration decision to cancel Obama’s planned visit to Moscow early in September,” Yuri Ushakov, an aide to President Vladimir Putin, told reporters.
He said it was clear to the Russians that the decision was connected to the Snowden case, “which was not created by us at all.” The U.S. is not ready to build relations with Russia on an equal footing, he said.
“For many years, Americans have avoided striking an extradition agreement while invariably responding with a denial to our request to extradite persons who committed crimes on Russian territory, referring to the lack of such an agreement,” he said.
The United States will lose more than Russia by cancellation of the summit, said another high-ranking Russian official.
“Frankly, we don’t need anything from America today, as times when we were looking for IMF loans are in the distant past,” said Leonid Kalashnikov, deputy head of the Foreign Relations Committee in the lower house of Russia’s parliament.
“Snowden will be soon forgotten, but Obama will be criticized at home for dropping Russian-U.S. relations to their lowest point in years,” he said in an interview. “For one thing, Obama badly needs a treaty with Russia on tactical weapons, and how can he get it without negotiations?”
The Snowden crisis is a way for Obama to avoid another icy summit with Putin, political analyst Lilia Shevtsova said.
“Canceling a one-on-one meeting with Putin is an optimal way out of the situation,” Shevtsova, a senior researcher with Moscow Carnegie Center, said. “Russia’s granting Snowden temporary refuge offered Obama a welcome chance not to be involved in yet one more meeting with Putin, but without really any constructive agenda to discuss.”
Obama still plans to travel to St. Petersburg next month for the G-20 economic summit.
Snowden, the former NSA contractor, was officially registered with Russia’s Federal Migration Service at an address which will remain secret for the duration of his stay in Russia, said Anatoly Kucherena, his Russian lawyer.