29th Sep 2023

Obama to visit Sweden after cancelling Putin meeting

  • Putin (r) has angered the US over his handling of Edward Snowden, but relations have been poor for some time (Photo:

US President Barack Obama has cancelled a bilateral meeting next month with Russian leader Vladimir Putin following Moscow's decision to grant temporary asylum to fugitive intelligence analyst Edward Snowden.

"We have reached the conclusion that there is not enough recent progress in our bilateral agenda with Russia to hold a US-Russia summit in early September," Washington said in a short statement on Wednesday (7 August).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Moscow's "disappointing decision" on Snowden was "also a factor," it added, with US authorities keen for Snowden to face charges at home for leaking security documents.

The Snowden affair was the catalyst for the decision. But relations between the two sides have been fraught for some time, despite the Obama administration's 2009 announcement - its first major foreign policy move - that it wanted to "reset" relations with Russia.

One of the main points of contention has been over Syria. Moscow has consistently backed President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s civil war, playing what Western nations see as an obstructive role in the United Nations.

Meanwhile, Russia last year agreed a law that would ban adoption of Russian children by US couples, a move seen as retaliation for the US' Magnitsky law, which targets Russian officials involved in the death of whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky.

There have also been tensions over Russia's anti-gay propaganda law, as well as its crackdown on civil society, which has seen US aid and pro-democracy organisations come under fire.

After he cancelled the Putin meeting, Obama appeared on the Jay Leno TV talk-show, giving him an informal platform to justify his decision and take a few swipes at Putin.

He said he had "no patience" for countries that treat sexual minorities in ways that "intimidate" or are "harmful" to them.

In an exchange with the host about how stern Putin looked during a press conference, Obama suggested it was because "he’s not accustomed to having press conferences where you’ve got a bunch of reporters yelling questions at you."

He also said that "there have been times" when Russian officials "slip back into Cold War thinking and a Cold War mentality."

While he dodged a question about whether he would meet Putin during the G20 conference in St. Petersburg on 5-6 September, which he is still planning to attend, Obama did not completely denigrate his Russian counterpart.

"They [the Russians] still help us on supplying our troops in Afghanistan; they’re still helping us on counterterrorism work; they were helpful after the Boston bombing in that investigation. And so there’s still a lot of business that we can do with them," he said.

Sweden in the spotlight

The cancelled meeting has put Sweden in the spotlight.

Obama will travel to Stockholm instead, making it the first ever "truly bilateral" meeting between US and Swedish leaders, according to Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt.

A US press statement announcing the visit on 4-5 September praised Sweden for "advancing clean technologies, and promoting environmental sustainability."

Sweden also represents a link to another fugitive that the US is interested in - Julian Assange.

The Wikileaks founder has been cooped up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London to avoid being extradited to Sweden for alleged sex crimes. He has repeatedly said he fears being handed over to US authorities by Stockholm.

EU countries reject Snowden asylum

Six EU countries have said No to asylum for US leaker Snowden, citing technicalities. Germany and Italy are also unlikely to say Yes.


How do you make embarrassing EU documents 'disappear'?

The EU Commission's new magic formula for avoiding scrutiny is simple. You declare the documents in question to be "short-lived correspondence for a preliminary exchange of views" and thus exempt them from being logged in the official inventory.


Will Poles vote for the end of democracy?

International media must make clear that these are not fair, democratic elections. The flawed race should be the story at least as much as the race itself.

Latest News

  1. EU women promised new dawn under anti-violence pact
  2. Three steps EU can take to halt Azerbaijan's mafia-style bullying
  3. Punish Belarus too for aiding Putin's Ukraine war
  4. Added-value for Russia diamond ban, as G7 and EU prepare sanctions
  5. EU states to agree on asylum crisis bill, say EU officials
  6. Poland's culture of fear after three years of abortion 'ban'
  7. Time for a reset: EU regional funding needs overhauling
  8. Germany tightens police checks on Czech and Polish border

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  2. International Medical Devices Regulators Forum (IMDRF)Join regulators, industry & healthcare experts at the 24th IMDRF session, September 25-26, Berlin. Register by 20 Sept to join in person or online.
  3. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  4. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA
  5. International Medical Devices Regulators Forum (IMDRF)Join regulators & industry experts at the 24th IMDRF session- Berlin September 25-26. Register early for discounted hotel rates
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal interest in the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations – here are the speakers for the launch

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers20 June: Launch of the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations
  2. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  3. ICLEISeven actionable measures to make food procurement in Europe more sustainable
  4. World BankWorld Bank Report Highlights Role of Human Development for a Successful Green Transition in Europe
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic summit to step up the fight against food loss and waste
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersThink-tank: Strengthen co-operation around tech giants’ influence in the Nordics

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us