McClatchy reports: The world’s most closely watched layover ended on Thursday as Russia granted temporary asylum to Edward Snowden, the accused intelligence leaker who’d been holed up in a Moscow airport’s transit lounge since June 23.
The Obama administration, which for weeks had issued only muted criticism of Russia as it implored President Vladimir Putin’s government to “do the right thing,” lashed out at the decision to offer Snowden a haven but didn’t dwell on possible repercussions.
Members of Congress fumed, calling on President Barack Obama to respond firmly. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said the affront was a “game changer” for U.S.-Russia relations. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said “Russia has stabbed us in the back” and asked Obama to recommend moving the G-20 economic summit, which is scheduled for next month in the Russian city of St. Petersburg.
But relations with Russia already are so frayed, analysts say, that there’s little the U.S. could do to punish Putin for taking in Snowden, who’s regarded by many here and abroad as a whistleblower for revealing a top-secret government spy program.
As dramatic as Snowden’s revelations are, his hiding out in Russia may not even be the worst snag in bilateral relations, which have deteriorated over the past 18 months and killed Obama’s goal of a “reset.” Other strains include disagreements over Syria, Russia’s freeze on U.S. adoptions of Russian children, and Congress’ approval of a law barring several Russian officials from entering the U.S. [Continue reading…]