“Following a careful review begun in July, we have reached the conclusion that there is not enough recent progress in our bilateral agenda with Russia to hold a US-Russia Summit in early September,” The White House wrote in a statement on Wednesday.
“Russia’s disappointing decision to grant Edward Snowden temporary asylum was also a factor that we considered in assessing the current state of our bilateral relationship.”
Instead of Moscow, the president will head on his first ever visit to Sweden.
“We’re really excited to have him come to Sweden,” Jeff Anderson, spokesman at the US embassy in Stockholm, told The Local. “We’re looking forward to have him here.”
Obama had intended to meet with Putin in early September, but Russia’s granting of temporary asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden has only “worsened relations” between the two countries, according to White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes.
“We’ll still work with Russia on issues where we can find common ground, but it was the unanimous view of the president and his national security team that a summit did not make sense in the current environment,” Rhodes said, according to the AP news agency.
The Putin meet up in Moscow was planned to coincide with the G20 summit in Saint Petersburg on September 5th to 6th, which Obama still plans to attend.
Obama had expressed his disappointment with Russia as recently as Tuesday during an interview with US TV host Jay Leno, where the pair discussed Russia’s lack of cooperation with the US over Edward Snowden’s extradition attempts, even though the US does not have an extradition treaty with Russia.
Obama pointed to the Snowden case as being “reflective of some underlying challenges” the US had had with Russia lately, adding, however, that there “hasn’t been major breaks in the relationship”.
The president also took the chance to comment on how the Russians are still engaged in “Cold War thinking”.
“There have been times where they slip back into Cold War thinking and a Cold War mentality. And what I consistently say to them, and what I say to President 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,” he said.
The news was welcomed by Sweden’s Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.
“It’s a good chance to discuss the political and economic developments in the world directly with President Obama and it’s a chance to present the Swedish opinions,” he said in a statement.
“I’m looking forward to discussing trade conditions, the need for reforms, and the economic situation in Europe and the world.”
Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt took to Twitter to voice his appreciation.
We will welcome President Obama to Sweden September 4th. Remarkable, but it will be first truly bilateral visit by a US President to Sweden
— Carl Bildt (@carlbildt) August 7, 2013
The first, and so far last, time a US president visited Sweden was during the 2001 EU-US summit in Gothenburg, but George W. Bush and his fellow world leaders sparked extensive rioting across the western city – leading the police to detain almost 700 people and to shoot several demonstrators.
The statement issued by the White House confirming the visit referred to Sweden as a “close friend” of the United States, praising the country for “key leadership” on important international issues, including the forging of a new EU-US trade deal.
According to the statement, President Obama will arrive in Stockholm on September 4th and stay overnight before departing on September 5th to the G-20 Summit.