At a time of heightened tension between the U.S. and Russia, President Obama says he will not conduct a one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow ahead of the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg next month.
Disputes over issues such as human rights had already created a rift between the two powers, which reached a breaking point following Russia's highly publicized decision to offer asylum to the NSA leaker Edward Snowden. Ben Rhodes, a senior national security adviser at the White House, said last week that Russia's actions exacerbated a relationship that was already strained.
The decision not to meet with Obama's Russian counterpart followed a White House review that began in July.
"Given our lack of progress on issues such as missile defense and arms control, trade and commercial relations, global security issues, and human rights and civil society in the last twelve months, we have informed the Russian Government that we believe it would be more constructive to postpone the summit until we have more results from our shared agenda," according to a White House release Wednesday morning.
"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," it stated.
The White House has opted instead to host a meeting in Washington on Friday, Aug. 9 between Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and their Russian counterparts.
The president will still attend the G-20 summit, slated to begin Sept. 5.
Obama sat down with comedian Jay Leno for an interview on "The Tonight Show" that aired Tuesday night, but did not discuss the potential meeting with Putin or his decision to cancel it. He said the Russians' decision to harbor suspected leaker Snowden represents a larger issue.
"It's reflective of some underlying challenges that we've had with Russia lately," he said. "There have been times where they slip back into Cold War thinking and a Cold War mentality."
Snowden, a former contract employee with the NSA and CIA, is accused of leaking highly classified information to anti-privacy site Wikileaks. He traveled from Hong Kong to the Moscow airport in June, where he stayed for more than a month in the transit zone before the Russian government offered him a one-year asylum last week.
In his inteview Tuesday the president also cited continued cooperation with Russia, including the supplying of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and assistance in counterterrorism work, such as the aftermath of the Boston bombing.
Russia is also now America's chief lifeline to the International Space Station following the U.S. decision to end its space shuttle program.
Human rights issues in Russia, including government bans on homosexuality, have come to a head before the winter Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014. Obama told Leno this situation is not unique, citing African countries he has visited that still persecute gays and lesbians.
"Putin and Russia have a big stake in making sure the Olympics work," he said. "They understand that for most of the countries that participate in the Olympics, we wouldn't tolerate gays and lesbians being treated differently."