The cold returns to the US-Russian relationship

By: Leslie Schuman

In recent weeks, the relationship between the United States and Russia has become increasingly strained. It’s no secret the US and Russia have a history of bad relations; however, since the end of the Cold War, the leaders of both nations had been working to establish a more positive dialogue. Unfortunately, many of Russia’s recent high-profile policy decisions have run counter to American interests and tensions are high as a result. Three weeks ago, Russia caused an uproar within the White House when they granted asylum to US fugitive and NSA-leaker Edward Snowden. Earlier this summer, Russia also implemented a new law that discriminates against gays and persecutes supporters of the LGBT community. These issues have created considerable distance between the Obama administration and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government. Many analysts believe increasing tensions could reach Cold War levels.[i]


The law against “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations”

This June, the State Duma, Russia’s lower Parliamentary house, overwhelmingly passed a stringent new law against the gay community. The anti-LGBT legislation, formally titled “the law against propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations”, bans public support of homosexuals, discussing homosexuality with children, and openly maintaining a gay relationship while in Russia.[ii]


The law was met with widespread international backlash. While much of the Western world has been moving forward with gay rights, Putin’s government appears to have just taken a large step back. Russia will host the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2018 World Cup. Many athletes, reporters, and fans who are gay or support the gay community have criticized the law, and many plan on protesting or boycotting the law. As for the US, President Obama has been vocal about his support of the gay community since his first term in office. While Obama has told the press that he has no plans to boycott the Olympics or any other athletic event, he has come out against the law as another situation where the US and Russia disagree.[iii]


Snowden’s asylum

Earlier this month, Russia announced that they had granted Edward Snowden temporary asylum. Snowden is allowed to work, live and travel within Russia for a year, at which point his asylum will either be renewed or he will have to relocate. If he stays in Russia for five years, Snowden would be eligible to become a naturalized citizen.


Russia’s announcement made waves in international politics. Putin’s decision embarrassed the United States, which had some nations celebrating and infuriated the White House.[iv] One of the conditions of his asylum in Russia is that he must stop releasing documents to the press. However, the Obama administration has voiced their concern that Snowden could still be releasing information, just not publically. The year of asylum will give Snowden time to contact people and organizations that could help him continue his life as a fugitive or potentially leak more information. Some fear that Snowden exchanged American intelligence with the Russians to receive asylum, in which case, the US government has even more to worry about then before.[v]


Since the announcement that Snowden would be granted asylum, the White House disclosed that Obama cancelled one-on-one meeting with Putin. The meeting was scheduled to take place before the G20 summit, a meeting between the leaders of the world’s largest economic powers. Any personal meetings that were scheduled to occur between Putin and Obama while at the summit has also been cancelled. It remains to be seen how the Snowden announcement will affect the G20 summit or our relations with Russia in the near future, but as of now, due to the recent string of events, it appears the relationship between the United States and Russia is growing cold once again.


Leslie Schuman, a rising sophomore at Emory University, is a proud native of Los Angeles, California. She is an International Studies major and a French Studies minor, and is currently working as a Communications intern at a social media company. She hopes to work or study abroad at least once before graduating from Emory.

[i] Roberts, Dan. The Guardian, "Obama cancels meeting with Putin over Snowden asylum tensions." Last modified August 07, 2013. Accessed August 21, 2013.

[ii] Press, Associated. CBS, "Russian Anti-gay Bill Passes, Protesters Detained." Last modified June 11, 2013. Accessed August 16, 2013.

[iii] Snowiss, Mark. Voice of America, "Russia's Anti-Gay Law Sparks Backlash." Last modified August 13, 2013. Accessed August 16, 2013.

[iv]Sonne, Paul, and Adam Entous. Wall Street Journal, "Snowden Asylum Hits U.S.-Russia Relations." Last modified August 01, 2013. Accessed August 16, 2013.

[v]Sonne, Paul, and Adam Entous. Wall Street Journal, "Snowden Asylum Hits U.S.-Russia Relations." Last modified August 01, 2013. Accessed August 16, 2013.

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