Relations between the United States and Russia — specifically, between President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin — are strained. Their differences are diverse, ranging from humanitarian concerns in Russia to the nations’ stances on Iran (nuclear weapons), Syria (civil war) and Europe (missile-defense systems).
Edward Snowden, the American shacked up in a Moscow airport while he seeks political asylum, is but a mere speck on the windshield of this growing international topic. The U.S. government wants to hold Snowden accountable for stealing state secrets. Putin, thus far, has declined U.S. requests to hand him over.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham believes he has the answer.
The South Carolina Republican wants the United States to boycott the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, and use that leverage to persuade the Kremlin to deliver Snowden before he finds permanent refuge elsewhere. (And to twist Putin’s arm on other issues, too.) It’s 1980 all over again — except the Cold War is over, the Soviet Union is no more and the boycott of the Moscow games had virtually no constructive effect on relations between the two nuclear powers.
Yet, the bad idea’s percolatin’ again — if only in Graham’s head.
Thank goodness for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who wasted little time Wednesday dousing the lame proposal with cold water. Unlike Graham’s logic, Boehner’s was sound: “Why would we want to punish U.S. athletes who’ve been training for three years to compete in the Olympics over a traitor who can’t find a place to call home?”
Granted, the rift between the White House and the Kremlin is real. Thursday, The New York Times reported that the differences between the two presidents might cause Obama to cancel a scheduled September stop in Moscow during his European visit for the Group of 20 nations meeting. (A St. Petersburg stop is scheduled, as well.)
Putin’s return to the Russian presidency has caused what smart followers of U.S.-Russian relations predicted — an icy diplomatic slowdown. It’s hard to see a thawing of tense relations while either Putin or Obama are in office.
None of that, mind you, has anything to do with the Olympics or a potential boycott. The quicker Graham stops pushing such a foolish idea, the better.