Skip to main content

Obama cancels talks with Putin ahead of G-20 summit

By Jessica Yellin. Jake Tapper and Tom Cohen, CNN
updated 6:38 AM EDT, Thu August 8, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Source: No Obama-Putin bilateral meeting planned for the G-20 summit
  • President Obama also will not go to Moscow before G-20 next month
  • Russia says it is disappointed about the canceled Obama-Putin talks
  • A lack of progress in the bilateral agenda is the reason, the White House says

Washington (CNN) -- President Barack Obama formally canceled a much-discussed visit to Moscow next month for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, citing a lack of progress in bilateral relations since Putin regained the presidency a year ago.

Obama will still attend a G-20 summit in St. Petersburg in early September, but now will go to Sweden beforehand instead of stopping in Moscow to meet with Putin, the White House announced.

"Following a careful review begun in July, we have reached the conclusion that there is not enough recent progress in our bilateral agenda with Russia to hold a U.S.-Russia Summit in early September," a White House statement said.

In addition, no one-on-one meeting between Obama and Putin is scheduled for the G-20 summit, a senior administration official told CNN on the condition of not being identified. However, the two leaders would see each other at group meetings in St. Petersburg.

The White House statement noted progress in relations with Russia during Obama's first term, much of it when Dmitry Medvedev was president and Putin was prime minister. Putin regained the presidency in May 2012.

Obama: 'No patience' for anti-LGBT laws in Russia

Obama: Russia must respect gay rights
Schumer: Putin doesn't deserve respect
Gay rights group wants action on Russia

"Given our lack of progress on issues such as missile defense and arms control, trade and commercial relations, global security issues, and human rights and civil society in the last 12 months, we have informed the Russian government that we believe it would be more constructive to postpone the summit until we have more results from our shared agenda," the White House said.

The statement also cited Russia's recent decision to grant asylum to classified leaker Edward Snowden as a factor in the decision, but a senior administration official told CNN that the talks with Putin were likely to have been canceled regardless.

"We just hadn't gotten any traction" on issues that the summit would have addressed, including missile defense and a reduction in nuclear missiles, the official said on the condition of not being identified, adding that attempts to find common ground on economic and trade agreements also were problematic.

"We're not in the business of doing summits just to do summits," the official told CNN.

Despite canceling the Moscow talks with Putin, the White House said a meeting set for Friday between Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel with their Russian counterparts would proceed "to discuss how we can best make progress moving forward on the full range of issues in our bilateral relationship."

Yuri Ushakov, an aide to Putin, told reporters on Wednesday that "we're disappointed with the U.S. administration's decision," the Russian news agency Itar-Tass reported.

"It's clear that the decision is linked to the situation around former CIA contractor Edward Snowden," Ushakov said, according to Tass, which quoted him as saying the situation "illustrates that the U.S. is not ready to build equal relations with Russia."

The invitation for Obama "remains in force," he said.

What Obama said on Leno

The senior Obama administration official said, "we still have business to do with these guys on Afghanistan and Iran as well as other issues."

On NBC's "Tonight Show" Tuesday, Obama said he was disappointed Russia had granted asylum to Snowden, a former government contractor who leaked details of National Security Agency surveillance programs that sparked a political firestorm.

The United States wants Russia to return Snowden to face trial on charges under the Espionage Act, but Russia instead granted him at least a year of asylum and he is in an unknown location in the country.

Russia's leaders have a proclivity for slipping into a Cold War mindset, Obama said, adding that it is essential that cooperation continues between the two nations.

Obama also criticized Russia for a new law banning "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations around minors."

Opinion: Make Olympics in Russia the gayest ever

Implemented last month after Putin signed it into law, the measure bars public discussion of gay rights and relationships anywhere children might hear it. The law has been condemned by Russian and international rights groups as highly discriminatory.

"I have no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them," Obama said.

U.S. legislators from both parties had called for Obama to cancel the Moscow talks with Putin, and some suggested he also should refuse to attend the G-20 summit in Russia.

"Putin doesn't deserve the respect after what he's done with Snowden," Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York told CNN on Wednesday. "He goes out of his way to stick the knife into the United States."

But Schumer said he supports Obama attending the G-20 gathering.

Protests, boycott calls as anger grows over laws

CNN's Jessica Yellin, Jake Tapper and Jill Dougherty contributed to this report, which was written by Tom Cohen.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:23 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wilson Raj Perumal tells CNN how he rigged World Cup games: "I was giving orders to the coach."
updated 5:20 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Our whole solar system appears to be inside a searing gas bubble, scientists say.
updated 8:02 PM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
One journalist murdered, another still being held by ISIS -- a ransom negotiator talks to CNN about the delicate business of trying to get a hostage home alive.
updated 10:02 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
The accidental killing of a gun instructor raises an "absurd question," writes Mel Robbins.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
ISIS has made surprise gains in Iraq and Syria in recent months, but may begin to suffer setbacks on the battlefield.
updated 2:44 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
The fear of Russian invasion is receding but peace may still be tricky to find.
updated 8:28 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Was a police officer justified in shooting and killing Michael Brown?
updated 12:54 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Don't like the country you live in? Meet the people who created their own "micronations."
updated 5:57 PM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
The signs exist that indicate U.S. airstrikes into Syria are on the way.
updated 5:46 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
We asked you what you would like to know about Ebola. Experts answer some of your most common questions and concerns.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT