For President Barack Obama, National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden’s globe-trotting evasion of U.S. authorities has dealt a startling setback to efforts to strengthen ties with China and raised the prospect of worsening tensions with Russia.
Indeed, Russia’s foreign minister on Tuesday called U.S. demands for Snowden’s extradition “ungrounded and unacceptable.”
Relations with both China and Russia have been at the forefront of Obama’s foreign policy agenda this month, underscoring the intertwined interests among these uneasy partners. Obama met just last week with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Group of Eight summit in Northern Ireland and held an unusual two-day summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in California earlier this month.
Obama has made no known phone calls to Xi since Snowden surfaced in Hong Kong earlier this month, nor has he talked to Putin since Snowden arrived in Russia.
Former Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., said it wasn’t clear that Obama’s “charm offensive” with Xi and Putin would matter much on this issue. The U.S. has “very little leverage,” she said, given the broad array of issues on which the Obama administration needs Chinese and Russian cooperation.
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