By Michael Bowman – WASHINGTON — U.S. lawmakers continue to slam Russia over Moscow’s decision to grant temporary asylum to former federal contractor and surveillance program leaker Edward Snowden.
Long gone are the heady days after the collapse of the former Soviet Union, when Washington and Moscow spoke of each other as budding allies in the post-Cold War era.
Sunday, American lawmakers took to the airwaves to heap scorn on the Russian government, and in particular President Vladimir Putin.
Republican Senator John McCain spoke on the Fox News Sunday television program.
“He [Putin] is an old KGB colonel that has no illusions about our relationship, does not care about a relationship with the United States, continues to oppress his people, continues to oppress the media, and continues to act in an autocratic and unhelpful fashion,” he said.
McCain said the Snowden episode signals “incredibly bad relations between the United States and Russia,” adding that President Putin has “put his thumb right in America’s eye.”
Tensions between Washington and Moscow extend beyond Edward Snowden, according to the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Democrat Robert Menendez.
“They [Russian officials] are unresponsive to us as it relates to the tragedies going on in Syria. They are unresponsive to us as it relates to further nuclear arms reduction. They are unresponsive when they violate the rights of gays and lesbians, including foreign visitors who come to Russia and could be arrested,” he said.
Menendez spoke on ABC’s This Week program.
At a news conference Friday, President Barack Obama said he does not have a “bad personal relationship” with Putin. Nevertheless, last week, the White House announced the cancelation of a planned summit between the two leaders.
“It is probably appropriate for us to take a pause, re-assess where it is that Russia is going, what our core interests are, and calibrate the relationship so that we are doing things that are good for the United States, and hopefully good for Russia as well, but recognizing that there are just going to be some differences and we are not going to be able to completely disguise them,” Obama said.
Bilateral tensions did not prevent a meeting last week between Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and their Russian counterparts. U.S. officials said the tone of the meetings remained “positive and constructive.”
Reacting to the cancelation of the Obama-Putin summit, a foreign affairs adviser to Putin said America has shown it is not ready to develop relations with Russia on an equal basis.