For President Barack Obama, National Security Agency leaker (NSA) Edward Snowden’s globe-trotting evasion of US 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 called US 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 their interests. Obama last week met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Group of Eight summit in Northern Ireland and held a 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 this month, nor has he talked to Putin since Snowden arrived in Russia.
Putin flatly refuses US’ extradition pleas
Russian President Vladimir Putin bluntly rejected US pleas to extradite NSA leaker Edward Snowden on Tuesday, saying Snowden is free to travel wherever he wants and insisting that Russian security agencies haven’t contacted him.
Snowden is in the transit zone of a Moscow airport and has not passed through Russian immigration, Putin said, meaning he is not technically in Russia.
Snowden’s whereabouts have been a mystery, and Putin’s comments is the first time Russia made clear it knows where he is. He said since there is no extradition agreement with the US, it couldn’t meet the request.