President Obama cancelled a planned summit with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin because he offered asylum to Edward Snowden, an American whistleblower. Snowden revealed evidence that the American government had been spying on average citizens, which Obama denies in spite of strong evidence. The White House said that the President would spending his time in Sweden, adding “[Sweden] plays a key leadership role on the international stage including in opening new trade and investment opportunities.” The message is clear: if you can’t take orders, you won’t be included. For better or worse, the United States still has tremendous power in the international system, but Russia should be a little harder to punish than the Latin American countries it has been used to.
Dan Roberts of The Guardian explains:
Alexei Makarkin, deputy director of the Centre for Political Technologies in Moscow, said although Obama’s visit became impossible for him politically after Russia granted Snowden asylum, it would not have been productive in the light of deteriorating relations. “It wasn’t clear what they were going to talk about,” Makarkin said.
The speed with which Russia approved Snowden’s asylum request shows that the “significance of America for Russia is decreasing”, and the Kremlin doesn’t see a reason to try to improve relations, he added.
A further souring of Russian-American relations could have a far-reaching impact on the international scene, but it’s also possible that the American administration is just grand-standing.