Failed meeting could prolong talks on major issues
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.
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 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
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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