The suggestion is swirling around Washington that President Obama should skip next month’s Group of 20 summit in Russia, and a one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, because of that country’s decision to grant a year’s asylum to Edward Snowden, the leaker of National Security Agency secrets. Such a decision would be foolishly shortsighted.
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The annual G-20 meeting is attended by leaders of the world’s major industrialized nations. It gives Mr. Obama the opportunity to meet with his counterparts from China, Germany, Japan, and Turkey, among others.
The summit’s principal topic of discussion will again be how the world’s largest economies recover from the global recession. Given the role of the United States in this comeback, its interdependence with the rest of the world economy, and America’s own economic and financial problems, Mr. Obama needs to be there and to coordinate U.S. efforts with those of the other major economies.
A dialogue with Mr. Putin would address a raft of important issues of common interest: the civil war in Syria, the unrest in Egypt, the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Iran’s nuclear program and its new president, North Korea’s latest antics, and the prospects for bilateral arms reduction — a matter of particular importance to Mr. Obama.
Even though it can be tempting, a boycott of a major event in a country that is doing something unhelpful makes little sense in international relations. President Obama needs to take his seat at the G-20 meeting, and to talk to his Russian counterpart.