By John Hudson
August 2, 2013
It’s one of the signature issues of President Obama’s second term, and Edward Snowden may have caused it to crack.
On Thursday, nuclear arms control advocates shuddered as Washington erupted in rage over Russia’s decision to grant temporary asylum to the former NSA contractor. With Republicans in Congress demanding retaliation and White House officials openly casting doubt on a planned Moscow summit, the worry is that Obama’s ambitious goal of reducing deployed strategic nuclear weapons by one-third may have just flown out the window.
“It’s one of the president’s key legacy issues and the Russians are in no uncertain terms critical partners for it,” Matt Rojansky, a Russia expert at the Wilson Center, told The Cable. “I don’t know how they pull it off now. The idea of lowering deployed numbers is substantially weakened if you don’t have a Russian counterpart.”
For Kingston Reif, a director at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, an already difficult situation just got a whole lot worse. “There have always been ups and downs in the US and Russia relationship [but] we appear to be in one of those down periods,” he told The Cable. “The prospects for major progress on a modus vivendi on missile defense and a framework for further nuclear weapons reductions during the President’s planned visit to Moscow in September weren’t particularly high to begin with.”
Today, both White House and State Department officials noted their “extreme” disappointment with Russia for refusing to return Snowden to the U.S. On top of that, spokesman Jay Carney said “We are evaluating the utility of a summit,” referring to Obama’s scheduled visit to Moscow ahead of the G-20 gathering in St. Petersburg next month. “We are extremely disappointed that the Russian government would take this step despite our very clear and lawful request in public and in private,” Carney said.
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