WASHINGTON — Pressure is building in Congress for President Obama to move the G-20 summit in September away from St. Petersburg in light of Russia’s granting Edward Snowden asylum on Thursday.
“Russia has stabbed us in the back, and each day that Mr. Snowden is allowed to roam free is another twist of the knife,” said Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in a statement. “Others who have practiced civil disobedience in the past have stood up and faced the charges because they strongly believed in what they were doing. Mr. Snowden is a coward who has chosen to run. Given Russia’s decision today, the President should recommend moving the G-20 summit.”
“Yes. Yes I do,” Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Buzzfeed when asked if she thought Obama should consider not attending the G-20 meeting.
“I think this is a troubling pattern,” Ayotte said, pointing to Putin’s support for Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, his crackdown on adoptions and a string of other decisions in which he’s “basically just trampling on what we’ve expressed to him that we want to see happen … we’re not just talking about Snowden here.”
Other senators didn’t explicitly call for Obama’s plans to change, but strongly condemned Putin for allowing Snowden into Russia instead of returning him to the U.S.
“I think Snowden is a traitor, and Putin did a wrong thing. But I’m not going to be a Secretary of State. I’m going to leave that to the President and John Kerry,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told BuzzFeed.
Sen. John Cornyn said that while he doesn’t have an opinion on whether Obama should not attend the meeting, he placed a substantial part of the blame for Putin’s decision on Obama’s shoulders.
“I think it’s a real thumb in the eye by Putin,” the Texas Republican said. “A thumb in the eye to the United States and a thumb in the eye to the President personally. Part of that is because people don’t see any consequences that follow cross red lines or defying the United States. That’s as much a credibility issue as anything else.”
Senator John McCain called for “serious repercussions” for Russia’s actions.
“Russia’s action today is a disgrace and a deliberate effort to embarrass the United States,” McCain said in a statement. “It is a slap in the face of all Americans. Now is the time to fundamentally rethink our relationship with Putin’s Russia. We need to deal with the Russia that is, not the Russia we might wish for. We cannot allow today’s action by Putin to stand without serious repercussions.”
McCain called for an expansion of the Magnitsky act and for completion of the U.S.’s missile defense programs in Europe. ”
Meanwhile, the White House and State Department have been suggesting that the President’s participation in a planned meeting with Putin around the time of the summit is in question.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters in the daily press briefing on Thursday that “we’re evaluating the utility of a summit.”
State Department deputy press secretary Marie Harf told reporters that “we are also re-evaluating the utility” of a planned 2+2 meeting between U.S. and Russian representatives scheduled to take place in Washington later this month.
Given the news about Snowden, Harf said, “It behooves us to reevaluate where the relationship is, whether the summit makes sense.”