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Aug. 22, 2013

The meeting not to abandon

by Rohan Oprisko, Sports Editor
Ever since Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who exposed the NSA's (National Security Agency) operations, fled to Russia, the U.S. has increased efforts to convince the Russian government to allow the U.S. to arrest him under the Espionage Act. The Espionage Act states that free speech is not guaranteed if it could harm national security. There have been many meetings and heated discussions between the U.S. and Russia relating to this incident. However, after spending a month in a Moscow airport, Russia granted Snowden one year of asylum. Because of this action, the Obama administration cancelled a scheduled meeting with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, in which they would have talked about important issues relating to both countries. Even though Snowden is a major concern, the administration should have viewed the meeting as an ideal opportunity to conduct meaningful conversations with Putin surrounding the issues of Snowden, Syria, civil rights and a new arms reduction deal.

By canceling the meeting, Obama missed out on a valuable opportunity to discuss important topics with Russia. Courtesy of Washington Post
By canceling the meeting, Obama missed out on a valuable opportunity to discuss important topics with Russia.
This cancellation marked the first time a U.S. President has cancelled a scheduled meeting with his Russian equivalent since the Cold War. After President Obama cancelled the meeting, Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel organized meetings with their respective Russian counterparts. Although Snowden’s asylum is a "knife into the United States," according to Sen. Charles E. Schumer, it is surprising and disappointing that an important meeting in which the leaders would conduct discussions about Syria and other important issues would be canceled due to one person, no matter how important he is. Although national security is of great importance, the lives of thousands of Syrians in a bloody civil war are just as important. President Obama should talk directly to Putin about trying to solve these issues diplomatically, rather than having Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel conduct meetings with their respective Russian counterparts.

Snowden has been the subject of many discussions between the U.S. and Russia and is just another one of the problematic issues in the two countries' relations. Another key issue that the two countries disagree on is the Syrian civil war. While the U.S. supports the rebels, Russia backs Bashar Al-Assad, the current leader of the country fighting to stay in power. The U.S. has also sanctioned 18 Russians for human rights violations and President Obama publicly criticized Russia's new law which prohibits homosexuality on NBC's "The Tonight Show". The President stated that he has "no patience for countries that intimidate or harm people because of their sexual orientation." Another pressing concern is the U.S.'s inability to convince Russia to become a part of a news arms reduction deal after they dropped out of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) in 2007. Because of all of these pressing issues, the U.S. needs to continue their diplomatic relations and not allow them to sour.

The U.S. relations with Russia resemble more of a petty relationship between two siblings than two countries whose strengthened relations could achieve foreign policy goals that would benefit other countries as well. Russia’s decision to prevent the U.S. from arresting Snowden can only be seen as a political action by Russia to see how the U.S. will react. Even though Russia is frustrating to deal with, this meeting between the presidents could have been the way to resolve most, if not all, of these issues. Putin is accustomed to the way the Soviet Union dealt with the U.S. as a former KGB (the Russian equivalent to the CIA) officer himself. He has not changed the way he deals with the U.S. and because of this, President Obama stated on NBC’s "The Tonight Show" that in relations to Russia, "there have been times where they slip back into Cold War thinking and a Cold War mentality." The U.S. should take this into consideration when dealing with Russia and instead of trying to come out on top, they should try to compromise with the Russian government and strengthen the relations between these two nations.

Although the situation is serious, Snowden does not deserve the importance of the first cancelled meeting between a U.S. president and his Russian counterpart since the Cold War. This canceled meeting could not only complicate a new nuclear arms reduction deal with Russia, but a discussion between the Presidents on gay rights and a discussion on civil rights.

Edward Snowden is a snag in the carpet of relations between Russia and the U.S., but it should not become something more than it is – a hole. The Obama administration should view the meeting as the ideal opportunity to discuss the pressing concerns of Syria and Snowden, and to work out some agreements diplomatically instead of possibly straining the U.S.'s ties with Russia further than they already are.

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  • Uh... on August 28, 2013 at 8:36 AM
    I can't agree with your arguments. while trying to be peaceful is always important, we have to be firm in our desire to capture criminals. As well as that meeting was a formality and press event because the track record of cooperationn between the US and Russia, even post-Cold War, greatly resembles the recent attempts at cooperation between Democrats and Republicans.
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