Washington — President Obama said that while the United States and Russia have made much progress and cooperated on many important issues during the past four years, there are “emerging differences” between the two nations, but still room for both to work together for the betterment of both their peoples.
Speaking at the White House August 9, Obama acknowledged that while he will be attending the Group of 20 (G20) Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, September 5–6, he will not be meeting in a separate summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The move followed Russia's decision to grant asylum to Edward Snowden, an American citizen who has leaked classified U.S. government information, as well as differences between the two governments over the conflict in Syria and human rights issues, including recent Russian legislation penalizing gays and lesbians.
“Our decision to not participate in the summit was not simply around Mr. Snowden, it had to do with the fact that, frankly, on a whole range of issues where we think we can make some progress, Russia has not moved. And so we don't consider that strictly punitive,” Obama said.
Over the past four years, “there's been a lot of good work that has been done and that is going to continue to be done,” he said, citing the 2011 New START agreement that is reducing the nuclear stockpiles of both countries, as well as Russia’s help in supplying international forces in Afghanistan. He also cited the administration’s work in 2012 to help Russia join the World Trade Organization.
At the same time, “there are just going to be some differences, and we're not going to be able to completely disguise them,” he said.
The United States will be assessing “where the relationship can advance U.S. interests and increase peace and stability and prosperity around the world,” Obama said.
“Where it can, we're going to keep on working with them; where we have differences, we're going to say so clearly,” the president said.
He urged Russian leaders to resist framing issues as “a zero-sum game,” where what is good for one country is bad for the other, and consider where they want to take Russia in the future.
“I think if they are looking forward into the 21st century and how they can advance their economy and make sure that some of our joint concerns around counterterrorism are managed effectively, then I think we can work together,” he said.