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The public policy blog of the American Enterprise Institute
Remember when Barack Obama came to office and immediately threw our allies Poland and the Czech Republic under the bus — cancelling our missile defense agreements with them in an effort to “reset” our relations with Russia?
How’s that reset working out for you, Mr. President?
Ok, maybe it was too much to ask for Russia to stop backing Syrian dictator Bashar Assad as he slaughters tens of thousands, or to help put pressure on Iran to stop its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
But surely our relations with Russia were “reset” enough that Vladimir Putin would not poke Obama in the eye by granting asylum to fugitive NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
So little respect does Putin have for President Obama, that his government did not so much as give the White House advance notice of the decision to give Snowden refugee status.
The White House is so angry that officials are reportedly considering cancelling a planned Moscow Summit with Putin later this year. That is probably making virtue out of necessity. In his June speech in Berlin, Obama made reaching a new agreement with Moscow on nuclear weapons reductions the centerpiece of his address. But there has been little or no progress on an agreement since then, and the odds of there being a treaty signing in Moscow were slim to none.
Now Obama can cancel the summit that was already a disaster in the making, and blame it all on Snowden.
The big test: will Snowden continue leaking from his Russian refuge? A few weeks ago, Putin declared, “If he wants to stay here there is one condition. He must cease his work aimed at inflicting damage to our American partners, as strange as it may sound from my lips.”
But even if Snowden suspends his illegal revelations while in Moscow, one wonders what the price of his refugee status will be. It is unclear what Snowden has provided the FSB so far — knowingly or unknowingly, voluntarily or involuntarily. Suffice it to say that any communications Snowden has with journalists and his WikiLeaks handlers will be closely monitored.
Keeping Snowden in Russia is an intelligence bonanza for Russia — one that Putin clearly valued more than his relationship with Barack Obama.
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