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U.S. on Future Talks With Russia: ‘It’s Their Move Now’

Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel would still like to meet with their Russian counterparts on Friday, even though their boss just cancelled his Moscow summit with Vladimir Putin. They’ve got things to discuss: Syria, Iran, the 2014 Olympics, and missile defense, to name a few. Whether the Russians decide to ...

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US President Barack Obama (L) holds a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G8 summit at the Lough Erne resort near Enniskillen in Northern Ireland, on June 17, 2013. The conflict in Syria was set to dominate the G8 summit starting in Northern Ireland on Monday, with Western leaders upping pressure on Russia to back away from its support for President Bashar al-Assad. AFP PHOTO / JEWEL SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel would still like to meet with their Russian counterparts on Friday, even though their boss just cancelled his Moscow summit with Vladimir Putin. They've got things to discuss: Syria, Iran, the 2014 Olympics, and missile defense, to name a few.

Whether the Russians decide to show for the planned meetings in DC after  President Obama's diplomatic snub of Putin is a bit of an open question.

"It's their move now. We still think it's prudent to have this meeting,"  a U.S. official tells The Cable. "As of this moment we're planning to meet."

Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel would still like to meet with their Russian counterparts on Friday, even though their boss just cancelled his Moscow summit with Vladimir Putin. They’ve got things to discuss: Syria, Iran, the 2014 Olympics, and missile defense, to name a few.

Whether the Russians decide to show for the planned meetings in DC after  President Obama’s diplomatic snub of Putin is a bit of an open question.

"It’s their move now. We still think it’s prudent to have this meeting,"  a U.S. official tells The Cable. "As of this moment we’re planning to meet."

"There are a number of issues that are important for us to discuss," the official adds. "But we’ll need to see if there’s progress on any of those areas before bringing it up to the highest levels."

Both countries have reasons for keeping the lines of communication open, from nuclear arms to Syria’s civil war. But Russia’s refusal to handover NSA leaker Edward Snowden created a diplomatic rift between the two nations, which White House Press Secretary Jay Carney openly called out in a Wednesday morning statement. "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," said Carney.  

The tit-for-tat decision was decidedly "un-Obama," as Matthew Rojansky, a Russia expert at the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute, put it. But the White House came under significant pressure from members of Congress to retaliate against the Kremlin for harboring Snowden. Many of those Representatives are now applauding Obama’s decision.

"The President was absolutely right to cancel his meeting with Putin," said Rep. Eliot Engel, ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "Russia’s decision to grant Snowden temporary asylum was a deliberate provocation – and one I believe was designed to further undermine U.S.-Russia relations, which have already suffered from Russian intransigence on a number of other important issues. While our ties with Moscow are certainly important, we must show Russia that its harboring of a wanted fugitive like Edward Snowden will negatively affect our relationship."

The committee’s Republican chairman responded to Wednesday’s news in kind. "This should help make clear that the Russian government’s giving Edward Snowden ‘refugee’ status is unacceptable," Royce said. "Snowden should be sent to the U.S. to defend his actions in a U.S. court of law."

Hagel and Kerry will tackle issues besides the NSA leaker. But the White House has made it clear that prospects for significant breakthroughs were already slim. "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," Carney said.

Though some in Congress discouraged the White House against it, the President still intends to attend the G-20 Summit in St. Petersburg beginning on September 5.

Noah Shachtman is Foreign Policy's executive editor of news, directing the magazine's coverage of breaking events in international security, intelligence, and global affairs. A Non-Resident Fellow at the Brookings Institution's Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, he's reported from Afghanistan, Israel, Iraq, and Russia. He's written about technology and defense for the New York Times Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Slate, Salon, and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, among others.

Previously, Shachtman was a contributing editor at Wired magazine, where he co-founded and edited its national security blog, Danger Room. The site took home the Online Journalism Award for best beat reporting in 2007, and a 2012 National Magazine Award for reporting in digital media.

Shachtman has spoken before audiences at West Point, the Army Command and General Staff College, the Aspen Security Forum, the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference, Harvard Law School, and National Defense University. The offices of the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, and the Director of National Intelligence have all asked him to contribute to discussions on cyber security and emerging threats. The Associated Press, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, PBS, ABC News, and NPR have looked to him to provide insight on military developments.

In 2003, Shachtman founded DefenseTech.org, which quickly emerged as one of the web's leading resources on military hardware. The site was later sold to Military.com. During his tenure at Wired, he patrolled with Marines in the heart of Afghanistan's opium country, embedded with a Baghdad bomb squad, pored over the biggest investigation in FBI history, exposed technical glitches in the U.S. drone program, snuck into the Los Alamos nuclear lab, profiled Silicon Valley gurus and Russian cybersecurity savants, and underwent experiments by Pentagon-funded scientists at Stanford.

Before turning to journalism, Shachtman worked as a professional bass player, book editor, and campaign staffer on Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign. A graduate of Georgetown University and a former student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Shachtman lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Elizabeth, and their sons, Leo and Giovanni. Twitter: @NoahShachtman

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