U.S. President Barack Obama has canceled plans to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow next month.
The gesture announced Wednesday is seen as a rare public rebuke to the Kremlin, but White House officials said Obama still plans to travel to Russia next month to attend the Group of 20 economic summit in St. Petersburg. He has added a two-day visit to Sweden before heading to the summit during the first week of September.
The Obama administration was angered by Russia's grant of temporary asylum last week to Edward Snowden, the former U.S. intelligence contractor who leaked details of clandestine surveillance programs being conducted by the United States. Obama had asked Russia to expel Snowden to face U.S. espionage charges, but Putin rejected the request.
In recent weeks, the U.S. and Russia have also disagreed on other fronts, including creation of a missile defense in Europe, human rights and Russia's shipment of arms to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad supporting his fight against rebels seeking his ouster. The U.S. supports the Syrian rebels.
The White House said it canceled the Obama-Putin meeting because there is "not enough recent progress" on issues dividing the two countries. Washington said it would be "more constructive" to postpone the summit until there is more agreement on a shared agenda.
Putin's top foreign policy aide, Yuri Ushakov, said Russia is disappointed by Obama's decision, which he blamed on the Snowden affair. However, Ushakov said the invitation for Obama to meet with Putin remains open.
In a U.S. television appearance Tuesday night on NBC-TV's Tonight Show, Obama said he was "disappointed" when Russia granted asylum to Snowden.
Although there is no U.S.-Russian extradition treaty, Obama said the U.S. has tried to cooperate with Russia on such cases in the past. He said the Kremlin's handling of this case is an instance of Russia slipping back into "Cold War thinking."
Separately, in answer to a question about Russia's new law banning what it calls gay propaganda, Obama said he has "no patience" with foreign laws discriminating against gays and lesbians. He noted that Russia is not unique in passing such laws.
US diplomacy continues
Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department says Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will meet with their Russian counterparts Friday in Washington.
A State Department spokeswoman said Tuesday the talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu will include discussions on Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, and the new START arms treaty.
Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov told The New York Times that the Kremlin expects a very intense discussion. He says there are quite a few "sharp, controversial, and difficult questions" facing both countries.