Obama May Snub G20 Summit

Now that Edward Snowden has been granted temporary asylum in Russia and he has been allowed to leave the airport, things are starting to hot up between the US and Russia. Washington has expressed that they are ‘disappointed’ by the reaction of Moscow and there have been allusions to the fact that President Obama may even go as far as to snub President Vladimir Putin and refuse to meet with him in September 2013.

Edward Snowden Passport

Edward Snowden Passport

Russia agreed yesterday to grant Edward Snowden asylum but as a consequence this has put a strain on the relations between Russia and the USA, despite the fact that Putin said that he wanted in no way to jeopardize the relations with the US. Although, sometimes, unbelievably in politics what a politician states is neither firstly necessarily what he thinks nor secondly necessarily what he does; or neither at the same time in the majority of the cases.

But, certainly Putin is probably thinking of himself rather than Obama at the present time. Sheltering Snowden means that he will be able to publically slap Obama in the face and send a strong message of propaganda to his own citizens, telling them that he is not the only one in the world not to respect human rights. If the US does it, then anyone can do it.  Secondly, there are 90% of Russians that believe that Snowden’s actions are positive, rekindling the great East-West divide of old, or at least keeping that ideological fire burning bright. There is also the added bonus of it being now possible for Putin to rally up some support in the wake of criticism for arresting opposition leader Alexey Navalny and slapping a five-year prison sentence on him. Putin also has to wage war upon the detractors of his economic policies and face criticism of the slowing down in the Russian economy, with a 30% possibility that the country will enter a recession in 2014 (up from a 20% risk last month), according to a survey by Bloomberg. This affair will help Putin rally support, but it will also galvanize his status in world affairs. He will be empowered to declare that Russia is still a force to be reckoned with and a role to play in geopolitical affairs taking place.

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin

In a recent poll in Russia (Levada Center) there were 43% of Russians that supported Russia’s granting of asylum to Snowden towards the end of July. Only 29% were against it.

But, Putin had very little choice, didn’t he? Snowden was almost barred from leaving the country and flying elsewhere. Either Putin took the decision to hand over Snowden to the US authorities or to provide a safe haven for him in Russia. The first solution would have destroyed his public image and made it look as if he were obsequiously obeying Uncle Sam. The second was the only one that would boost the troops at home.

Now, Washington has hinted that Obama may snub a private meeting with Putin when Obama makes his first public visit to Russia since Putin was reelected in March last year, when Moscow hosts the G20 summit. According to sources at the White House, Obama is presently weighing up the “utility” of the meeting and may even cancel going all together to the summit.

Putin may have gained the backing of his people, but the Snowden affair has come along at a very bad moment in the political and geopolitical agenda. Will this now create further problems on already thorny issues such as Iran, Syria and relations with China?

According to a former adviser on Russia to President Clinton, Andrew Weiss, “The political climate in Washington on Russia is poisonous. There was already plenty of anger toward Russia brewing in the political establishment. Snowden is an accelerant."

However, it is the Syrian conflict that will cause the most problems and it is the Syrian people that will be used as an exchanging currency, traded off between the US and Russia as Bashar al-Assad is allowed to carry on impuniously killing his people.

Coming to any sort of compromise was already difficult regarding Syria at the last G8 meeting, now this time round after Snowden’s asylum it looks almost impossible. Peace talks certainly will not be on the agenda. It is also feared now that Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, who expressed willingness to discuss Iran’s nuclear program, will also be left out in the cold as Russia may decide to pose a problem regarding imposing sanctions on the country by the West in the event of not complying with wishes.

G20 Russia

G20 Russia

It is very doubtful that Washington will sit back and allow Putin to chide and belittle the US. At some point, there will be some form of retaliation that will occur, whatever that may be. At the moment, there are many possibilities open to Obama regarding how to react. But, they have to be weighed up very carefully. The US needs Russia to agree on Syria and it needs to be able to control Iran’s race for nuclear power. It is also very needy of Russian territory to withdraw from Afghanistan at the moment.

It seems highly unlikely that Obama will go as far as to snub the G20 summit on 5-6 September 2013. There has been suggestion of boycotting the Winter Olympics in February 2014 in Sochi, but that too would bring things to a head. Neither the US nor Russia would be prepared to return to antagonistic international relations of the past, would they?

If we are to believe the tactics of Washington, then the hinting that the US will boycott the G20 summit is more than likely to be a game. A white House spokesman said that Russia should hand Snowden back immediately if the bilateral meeting just before the G20 is not going to be put on the line. Snowden has taken with him, according to the White House, thousands of classified documents.

In a statement issued yesterday by Snowden he said: “Over the past eight weeks we have seen the Obama administration show no respect for international or domestic law, but in the end the law is winning. I thank the Russian Federation for granting me asylum in accordance with its laws and international obligations."

Russia never informed the US in advance in another move perhaps to show the Obama administration that they were going it alone and in no way needed the authorization of anybody else to do exactly as the choose. Recently Russia has hidden behind the fact that Snowden was not legally on Russian soil while he was in the transit zone in the airport and so their jurisdiction never allowed them to go as far as to hand him over to the US authorities. Now, a decision will have to be made; but it looks as if it already has.

President Obama

President Obama

But, today people are focusing more upon the single man that is being used as a pawn between two nations that are opposed on certain points rather than focusing on the fact that privacy laws have been violated throughout the world by the National Security Agency in the name of national security. It’s the surveillance programs that are the crux of the matter and not one man.

We shall await the decision of Obama and see what will be the line of action of the Obama Doctrine on this one.

Should we start building fall-out shelters or will it not get to that stage?
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