More than Snowden dividing US, Russia

2013-08-08 11:01
US President Barack Obama holds a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G8 summit at the Lough Erne resort near Enniskillen in Northern Ireland. (File, AFP)

US President Barack Obama holds a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G8 summit at the Lough Erne resort near Enniskillen in Northern Ireland. (File, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington — How do US leaders feel about Russia's behaviour? Not angry, just very "disappointed".

Over and again as they try to patch up troubled relations, Obama administration officials end up reaching for that word that doleful parents use to scold a wayward teenager.

The latest disappointment — Russia's embrace of a fugitive who leaked US secrets — pushed President Barack Obama to cancel a one-on-one summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin next month.

Moscow's willingness to harbour National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden is an example of the kinds of "underlying challenges" that keep getting in the way of his efforts to ease tensions between the former Cold War rivals, Obama says.

Some of the other issues frustrating US-Russian relations:


The two nations are at odds over the civil war. Russia has shielded Syrian President Bashar Assad from international sanctions and provided him weapons, despite an international outcry.

The US says Russia's support is allowing Assad to cling to power despite more than two years of violence which, according to United Nations estimates, already has killed 100 000 of his people.

The US and Russia have agreed on the need for talks between Assad and the rebels in hopes of ending the war, and Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have launched a joint initiative to try to get both sides to the negotiating table. The US would like to see Russia do more to force Assad's hand. Kerry and Lavrov are to meet on Friday in Washington.

Missile defence

Russians have a long-standing problem with the US missile defence system planned for Europe, dating back to the Reagan administration's disputes with the Soviet Union. The Russians see the system as a threat to the viability of their own nuclear arsenal as a deterrent. American officials have always maintained that the missile defences are meant to protect Nato allies and counter any threat from Iran.

Obama was denounced by Republican critics when in March 2012 he was caught, unaware that he was speaking into an open microphone, assuring Russia's then-president Dmitry Medvedev that he would have more flexibility on the issue once re-elected. Russia complains there's been little sign of movement on missile defence since Election Day.

Human rights

Americans object to the way Russian leaders have tried to silence critical voices.

The White House said it was "deeply disappointed and concerned" when opposition leader Alexei Navalny was sentenced to five years in prison on embezzlement charges last month. A colourful blogger turned protest leader, Navalny challenged the Kremlin by exposing corruption, mocking Russian leaders and running for mayor of Moscow.

In April, the US imposed financial sanctions on 18 Russians over human rights violations. The sanctions were sparked by the death in prison of a Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who had accused police and officials of stealing $230m in tax rebates. Officials accused of profiting from the scheme or persecuting Magnitsky were hit with sanctions.

US leaders joined musicians and free speech advocates around the globe in denouncing the imprisonment last year of members of the punk rock band Pussy Riot. The three women were convicted of hooliganism after staging an anti-Putin protest inside a Russian Orthodox Church.

Putin bristles at the US criticism.


Putin signed a law last year banning US adoptions of Russian children. The move was viewed within the US as retaliation for the Magnitsky law that set in motion human rights sanctions against Russian officials.

Civil society

After returning to the presidency last year, Putin has waged a campaign of harassment and intimidation against civil society groups, the non-governmental organisations that take up causes such as protecting human rights, helping immigrants, defending voters' rights or promoting environmental protection.

Russia also expelled the US Agency for International Development (USAid), which had promoted democracy and civil societies in Russia for two decades.

The Kremlin accused USAid of using its $50ma nnual budget to influence Russian politics and elections and weaken Putin's hold on power.

Gay rights

Violence against gays long has been a problem in Russia. Now the US is criticizing Russia for an official crackdown on gay rights.

A new Russian law imposes fines and up to 15 days in prison for people accused of spreading "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" to minors. The law covers views expressed online or in the news media. And it bans gay pride rallies.

Russian officials say the law will be enforced during the 2014 Olympics in the city of Sochi.

Asked about that on Tuesday on The Tonight Show, Obama said he has "no patience" for countries that intimidate or harm people because of their sexual orientation.

Read more on:    pussy riot  |  barack obama  |  edward snowden  |  vladimir putin  |  us  |  russia  |  gay rights  |  privacy  |  human rights  |  syria conflict  |  espionage

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.