WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Barack Obama has confronted Russia over its granting of asylum to fugitive intelligence leaker Edward Snowden and its new anti-gay law, saying Moscow occasionally displays a “Cold War mentality”.
During an appearance on a late-night talk show Tuesday, Obama said Moscow was still being helpful in Afghanistan and on counter-terrorism but spoke of “underlying challenges that we’ve had with Russia lately.”
“There have been times where they slip back into Cold War thinking and a Cold War mentality,” Obama said on NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”
“What I consistently say to them, and what I say to President (Vladimir) Putin, is that’s the past, and we’ve got to think about the future, and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to cooperate more effectively than we do.”
Obama insisted he would attend next month’s G20 summit in Saint Petersburg, but did not say whether he would meet with Putin for one-on-one talks in Moscow.
Obama said he was “disappointed” by Russia’s decision to award one year’s temporary asylum to Snowden, the former IT contractor who leaked details of vast U.S. surveillance programs to the media.
Snowden was last week allowed to relocate to a secret safe house after being marooned in Moscow’s airport for five weeks.
Washington had revoked his passport and demanded he be sent back to face charges of espionage over the leaks, which detailed the U.S. National Security Agency’s gathering of vast amounts of phone call logs and Internet data.
Obama declined to say whether the programs had helped identify the Al-Qaeda threat that led Washington to close some two dozen embassies earlier this week, but called them a “critical component of counterterrorism.”
Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said Tuesday that Washington was blowing the Snowden case out of proportion after the White House said it was still considering whether Obama would meet Putin in Moscow.
“The U.S. administration is bringing into question bilateral contact at the highest level. I think this is absolute distortion of reality, it’s looking at the world in a crooked mirror,” he said.