Obama weighs canceling Moscow talks with Putin

Updated: 2013-07-19 07:45


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"When the spotlight of the world is on him and Russia, he doesn't want that spotlight to reveal a lot of negative things which are going to be distractions," Kuchins said.

Pulling the plug on the US-Russia talks would deepen the tensions between the two leaders. And it would likely make it even more difficult for the two countries to find common ground on areas of disagreement that plague the relationship.

The US accuses Russia of providing military support to Assad that has allowed him to cling to power during more than two years of clashes with rebels seeking to overthrow his government. The US deeply angered Russia earlier this year when it announced sanctions against 18 Russians as part of a law named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who was arrested in 2008 for tax evasion after accusing Russian police officials of stealing $230 million in tax rebates. Within days of the Treasury Department announcement, Russia announced that it was banning US adoptions of Russian children.

On Thursday, the White House also said it was "deeply disappointed and concerned" by the conviction of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who challenged the Kremlin with exposures of high-level corruption and mocked the leadership with biting satire. He was sentenced to five years in prison Thursday in a verdict that fueled street protests near Red Square and drew condemnation from the West.

Kuchins said that while granting Snowden asylum would certainly be the impetus for canceling Obama's Moscow trip, it would not be the only reason.

"It would be saying at least two things to the Russians," Kuchins said. "That granting asylum to Edward Snowden was a bridge too far, and secondly that we don't feel like we're actually losing so much out of the cancellation of the summit because we didn't expect to get much out of it."

Some US lawmakers are calling on Obama to go beyond simply canceling his talks with Putin. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has also called on the US to boycott next year's Winter Olympics scheduled for Sochi, Russia.

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