U.S. officials are escalating their rhetorical war against Russian President Vladimir Putin as several congressional leaders urged President Obama to cancel his scheduled meeting with the Kremlin leader next month in Moscow.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., arguing that Putin is nothing more than a "schoolyard bully," was among those advising Obama to reject the one-on-one meeting. "The relationship between the United States and Russia is more poisonous than at any time since the Cold War because of all of this," Schumer told CBS News' "Face the Nation" Sunday.
He was referring to Russia granting a one-year asylum to Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency contract worker who leaked classified information about U.S. surveillance programs. Snowden fled to Moscow from Hong Kong, and U.S. officials want him returned to the United States for prosecution.
White House officials say Obama is considering such a cancellation. The Obama-Putin meeting is supposed to occur as a side session in conjunction with the Group of 20 economic conference in St. Petersburg, Russia, next month. It's likely that Obama would still attend the G20 conference even if he cancels the Putin session.
Schumer said, "Putin's behaving like a schoolyard bully. Unless you stand up to that bully, they ask for more and more and more. Always going out of his way, Mr. Putin is, to poke us in the eye with Iran and Syria, and now with Snowden."
Rep. Paul Ryan, Wis., a leader of House Republicans, agreed with Schumer and told CBS, "I think President Putin thinks he can get away with pushing around this administration because the administration has given sort of appeasement feelings that they can do this. The 'reset' policy has been an utter failure. This is a stab in the back ... that has got to come with consequences."
Among the other setbacks to the U.S. relationship with Russia, beyond the Snowden affair, have been the Kremlin's siding with the ruling regime in Syria while the United States supports the rebels there, and criticism by Russian leaders of Obama's recent proposals for nuclear arms reductions.
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com and "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He is the author of the new book "Prisoners of the White House: The Isolation of America's Presidents and the Crisis of Leadership." Ken Walsh can be reached at email@example.com and on Facebook and Twitter.