This morning’s news that President Obama canceled his plans to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow next month at the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg could very well signal the end of the reset.
Over the past few months, Putin has dished up a series of provocations that would have seemingly brought any other world leader to this point much sooner. His decision to harbor NSA leaker Edward Snowden despite repeated extradition requests from the White House and, most notably, granting Snowden asylum last week appears to be the proverbial straw the broke the camel’s back.
While Russia’s actions vis-à-vis Snowden have been top of mind there is a long line of choices that the Russians have made which have brought us to this point.
Think back to early July when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Secretary of State John Kerry that Russia was committed to an international conference on Syria and setting up a transitional government to end the bloodshed and “save the state of Syria”. As Lavrov was paying lip service to the Syrian cause, Russia was shipping embattled Syrian dictator Assad weapons, including S-300 missiles. The reason? The Russians had to “fulfill their commitment”.
In terms of containing North Korea and its nuclear program, Russia has once again merely supported the United States’ cause without any genuine follow through. We have pressed both Russia and China to cut ties and economic support for the regime in Pyongyang and while there has been superficial acquiescence to our requests, North Korea enjoys good relations with both nations. Indeed, Russia is currently trying to extend the Trans-Siberian rail line into North Korea as well as a natural gas pipeline that Kim Jong Un fully supports.
As far as Iran is concerned, Moscow views Iran as its Middle East proxy. Russia has leveraged all of its advantages to help Iran including its nuclear expertise, arms sales, energy and diplomatic cover especially in the United Nations.
Taken together, it is clear that Obama’s decision to cancel his one-on-one with Putin isn’t just about Snowden. It is about years of Russian provocation and, indeed, abuse of its relationship with the US.
If this is the end of the reset, which I believe it very may well be, it is high time. Russia causes us continual embarrassment over significant diplomatic and economic issues. There is no reason that they shouldn’t get a taste of their own medicine.