There seems to be a growing separation between Washington and Moscow. Some media have reported the sudden appearance of a ‘Berlin Wall’ in bilateral relations. That wall, it is said, is built of two components: the virtual and the human.
Putin’s government granted yesterday political asylum for a whole year to former intelligence analyst, Edward Snowden, which immediately caused outrage in the United States. Putin has ignored the personal call from his counterpart, Barack Obama, and threats from the White House to boycott the G-20 in meeting in St. Petersburg. The Obama administration is said to be re-thinking whether or not the US president should attend the scheduled bilateral meeting with his counterpart Vladimir Putin.
Russia ignored the letter from the US attorney general, Eric Holder, which promised that Snowden would not be tortured and that the US would not seek the death penalty should Russia surrender Snowden back to his country.
Jay Carney, White House spokesman, did not hide the disgust yesterday by the Russian decision to protect Snowden. “We are extremely disappointed,” he said in his testimony. Carney added that Snowden is not a whistleblower or a political dissident, but someone who needs to be prosecuted for the alleged commission of very serious crimes.
“This is not a positive development in bilateral relations and undermine cooperation on security issues,” among which he mentioned are the recent attack in Boston attributed to two brothers from Chechnya. That is, as we now know, a false statement.
So far, the spokesman had always said that the US would potentially boycott the talks if Russia granted asylum. But yesterday he change his discourse. “We need to reassess whether the fall’s meeting between Obama and Putin should still occur,” he said. Other sources cited by Reuters said high-level talks between the two countries to be held in Washington are also being reconsidered.
“This is not a matter of geostrategic discrepancies, as in Syria. This is a frontal attack on the bilateral relations,” said Carney. He insisted that it is an “unfortunate event.” He suggested however, that he doesn’t believe there will be “a great deterioration in American relationships with Russia”
Some American lawmakers were less condescending. “It is a provocation and a clear sign of lack of respect from Putin to Obama,” said Republican Lindsey Graham.
In a statement, Democrat Robert Menendez called the resolution “a blow” to US-Russian cooperation. “Edward Snowden has caused great harm to national security, his leaks can help terrorist acts against our country.” Meanwhile the conservative Tom Coburn added that Snowden “is a goldmine for the Russians”, due to the knowledge he has about the American spying program.
Snowden will not return. He left the airport transit area. His destination is unknown: “It is one of the most wanted men,” his lawyer said.