White House press secretary Jay Carney argued today that nobody could look at the Obama administration’s “reset” efforts with Russia and say they weren’t worth it, despite Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) contention that Moscow is gleefully humiliating Washington by granting asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
“We are extremely disappointed that the Russian government would take this step, despite our very clear and lawful requests in public and in private to have Mr. Snowden expelled to the United States to face the charges against him,” Carney told reporters at today’s briefing. “…This move by the Russian government undermines a longstanding record of law enforcement cooperation, cooperation that has recently been on the upswing since the Boston Marathon bombings.”
Russia says the U.S. ignored its warning about Chechen bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
Carney said “we will obviously be in contact with Russian authorities, expressing our extreme disappointment in this decision, and making the case clearly that there is absolute legal justification for Mr. Snowden to be returned to the United States.”
President Obama is supposed to visit Russia in September, and Carney said while there’s no “scheduling announcement” on that “obviously this is not a positive development.”
When asked whether the Snowden drama had the administration rethinking “reset,” Carney went on the defensive.
“Our relationship with Russia, as is the case with other important countries around the world, is based in realism. And it is a simple fact that the so-called reset in our relations with Russia produced positive benefits for American national security and for the American people. They produce cooperation from Russia on the transit of supplies and materiel to our troops in Afghanistan. It provided cooperation with Russia in dealing with Iran. It provided a cooperation with Russia that led to the New START Treaty. It provided other forms of cooperation that benefit the United States and the American people and our national security,” he said.
“Throughout the process of the evolution of our relations with Russia over the past four-and-a-half years, we have had conflicts with Russia. We have had disagreements with Russia. And we have been extremely clear about those conflicts and disagreements, most recently and seriously over Syria, and that has been the case and will be the case moving forward, but it is simply — I think if those who might suggest that we should not have engaged in our efforts to — with the Russians, upon President Obama’s taking office, would then say that the benefits that were a result of that engagement were not worth it. And I don’t think that’s the case. I don’t think anybody would argue that that’s the case, sensibly.”
Carney confirmed that the Russian government didn’t alert the U.S. ahead of time that they were going to grant the yearlong asylum.
McCain called Moscow’s move “a deliberate effort to embarrass the United States.”
“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,” the senator said.
“The first thing we should do is significantly expand the Magnitsky Act list to hold accountable the many human violators who are still enjoying a culture of impunity in Russia. We should push for the completion of all phases of our missile defense programs in Europe, and move expeditiously on another round of NATO expansion, including the Republic of Georgia. We should challenge the political convictions and detentions of Russian dissidents such as Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Alexei Navalny. And perhaps most importantly, we should speak out on behalf of the many people in Russia who increasingly are finding the courage to peacefully demand greater freedom, accountability, and rule of law in Russia,” McCain continued.
“Today’s action by Putin’s Russia should finally strip away the illusions that many Americans have had about Russia the past few years. We have long needed to take a more realistic approach to our relations with Russia, and I hope today we finally start.”
Carney said he wouldn’t “speculate about consequences or next steps.”
“Look, I think I’ve said clearly that we are extremely disappointed that the Russian government would take this step, despite our very clear and lawful requests in public and in private that Mr. Snowden be expelled and returned to the United States You know, again, as I’ve said in answer to previous questions, I don’t have — I don’t want to speculate about what will become of our ongoing discussions with Russian officials about this matter or about other matters that we have on the table between us, except to say that we’re obviously very disappointed about this development.”