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Scrapped summit

China Daily | Updated: 2013-08-09 09:30

US President Barack Obama's abrupt withdrawal from a summit with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin has drawn widespread concern about the worsening of ties between the United States and Russia. The frosty relations between the two powers cater to neither party's interests, nor those of the world at large.

The two leaders were due to meet in Moscow before the G20 summit, which is scheduled to take place in Saint Petersburg on Sept 5 and 6, but the US said there has not been enough progress in relations to warrant a meeting.

The decision was announced by White House spokesman Jay Carney on Wednesday, who cited the lack of progress in resolving the two countries' disagreements over missile defense and arms control, trade and commercial relations, global security issues, and human rights as the reason for postponing the summit to a later date.

US officials have made it clear that Russia's decision to grant Edward Snowden, the US intelligence whistle-blower, asylum for one year is not the only bone of contention between the two countries. However, the decision to grant Snowden temporary asylum was clearly the tipping point.

But there is no reason to be too pessimistic about US-Russia ties. In an interview broadcast on Tuesday, Obama revealed his frustration and disappointment with the rapidly cooling ties, blaming it on Russia's "Cold War mentality". He said the two countries should be able to cooperate more effectively.

Certainly neither country has the intention of slamming the door on bilateral interaction. The meeting between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu is still going ahead in Washington on Friday, and Obama has said he will go to Saint Petersburg to attend the G20 summit.

Clearly both countries still attach considerable importance to bilateral ties and still want to improve their relations. Indeed, despite their disagreements and skirmishes, the two need to cooperate on a host of issues such as the Syria crisis and Afghanistan.

Washington should make sure it adopts the forward-looking approach it has advocated and always looks to the general picture of bilateral ties when handling thorny issues with Russia, including Snowden.

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