Snowden asylum sends US-Russia relations tumbling to post-cold war low

Russia granted Mr. Snowden temporary
refugee status - valid for one-year and
renewable - allowing him to leave Moscow's
Sheremetyevo airport, where the former
intelligence contractor who leaked details of
secret telephone and e-mail surveillance
programs had been holed up for more than a
month eluding US law enforcement.
Russia's action received immediate praise
from the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks,
which has been counseling Snowden in his
legal fight and information-divulging
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But it was quickly condemned both at the
White House and by some in Congress -
some of whom are calling for slapping Russia
with a wide-ranging list of consequences.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told
reporters that President Obama is "extremely
disappointed that the Russian government
would take this step." The move "undermines
a long record of law-enforcement
cooperation" between the two countries, he
said, before suggesting that the impact of
Russia's action is likely to permeate deeper
in bilateral relations.
Asked if Mr. Obama still expects to meet
with Russian President Vladimir Putin in
Moscow in September as planned, Carney
said, "We are evaluating the utility of a
summit in light of this."
Reaction in Congress was less diplomatic.
Calling Snowden "a fugitive who belongs in a
United States courtroom, not a free man
deserving of asylum in Russia," Sen. Robert
Menendez (D) of New Jersey said in a
statement that by harboring someone who
"will potentially do great damage to US
national security interests," Russia had dealt
"a setback to US-Russia relations."
Sen. John McCain blasted Russia's action as
"a disgrace and a deliberate effort to
embarrass the United States," adding, "Now
is the time to fundamentally rethink our
relationship with Putin's Russia." The US
should respond by expanding recent
legislation targeting Russian human-rights
violators, by moving forward with an
expansion of NATO despite Russian concerns,
and by completing the missile defense
systems in Europe that Russia opposes, he
"Perhaps most importantly," Senator McCain
said, "we should speak out on behalf of the
many people in Russia who increasingly are
finding the courage to peacefully demand
greater freedom, accountability, and rule of
law in Russia."