Obama cancels meeting with Putin amid Russia tensions

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By Alastair Jamieson, Staff writer, NBC News

President Barack Obama has canceled a planned meeting in Moscow with Russia's President Vladimir Putin - a diplomatic snub that follows tensions over NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

The mini-summit had been scheduled for early September, days before the G-20 meeting of world economic leaders in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Obama still plans to attend the main G-20 summit.

Authorities in Moscow last week granted temporary asylum to Snowden, who is wanted by U.S. authorities for leaking classified intelligence information to newspapers.

That decision infuriated Washington. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called on the U.S. "to fundamentally rethink our relationship with Putin's Russia."

In a statement Wednesday, the White House noted cooperation in some areas, such as policies toward Afghanistan and Iran, but said Moscow’s decision to help Snowden was “disappointing.”

"Given our lack of progress on issues such as missile defense and arms control, trade and commercial relations, global security issues, and human rights and civil society in the last twelve months, we have informed the Russian Government that we believe it would be more constructive to postpone the summit until we have more results from our shared agenda," the White House said.

Senator Charles E. Schumer, who had urged Obama to cancel the summit, welcomed the White House decision.

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“President Putin is acting like a school-yard bully and doesn't deserve the respect a bilateral summit would have accorded him,” he said.

There have also been tensions between Moscow and Washington over missile defenses and how to deal with the civil war in Syria. Face-to-face talks between Obama and Putin in Northern Ireland in June were tense.

The decision to cancel the meeting also came hours after Obama criticized Russia's policies toward gays and lesbians in an interview with "The Tonight Show" host Jay Leno.

Obama told Leno he would take a tough stance with Russia at the summit.

"There are times when they slip back into Cold War thinking and Cold War mentality,” he said of the Russian government. “What I continually say to them and to President Putin, that’s the past."

Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the cancelation "should help make clear that the Russian government's giving Edward Snowden 'refugee' status is unacceptable."

Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner used the development as an opportunity to take a swipe at Obama. 

"The president's signature foreign policy accomplishment from the first term — a reset with Russia — has just collapsed," said his spokesman Brendan Buck.

In Moscow, Putin foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov told Russian media that the move was "disappointing," and said the invitation to Obama was still open, according to Reuters.

"Russian representatives are ready to continue working together with American partners on all key issues on the bilateral and multilateral agenda," he said, according to The Associated Press.

In place of the canceled Putin meeting, Obama will visit Sweden, according to a White House statement that called Sweden "a close friend and partner to the United States."

Meetings between Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry and their Russian counterparts scheduled for August 9 in Washington will go ahead as planned, the White House said.

NBC News' Chuck Todd, Kristen Welker and Kelly O'Donnell contributed to this report.

Related: Snowden asylum threatens US-Russia talks