How's Obama snub of Putin is playing in Russia

Putin has not yet replied to Obama’s snub, but most experts found it hard to see how he could spin it in his favor. “He can again say that he did not bow to American demands, that he did not obey,” says Alexander Konovalov, an expert on U.S.-Russia affairs at the Moscow Institute of International Relations. But that message has grown hackneyed over the past year of bickering between Moscow and Washington, so it will not earn him many points with the domestic electorate, adds Konovalov.

The only ones who seemed to be celebrating Obama’s snub on Wednesday were some of Putin’s harshest critics. “Putin thrives on these joint appearances to show his cronies that he’s an equal on the global stage despite his lack of credentials, and that he can protect their interests abroad,” says Garry Kasparov, the former world chess champion who helped lead the anti-Putin protests last year. “I’m glad Obama is finally showing some spine with regard to Putin,” he says. “This cancellation is a welcome start.”

But other opposition leaders were less sanguine. Leonid Gozman, a liberal politician, said Obama could have done more for the opposition’s cause by showing up in Moscow as planned. “He could at least have met with activists, spoken at a university, explained his message in an interview to the Russian press,” Gozman says. “Back in 1972, our country was like a concentration camp without fences, and Nixon still came to meet Brezhnev. They ended up talking through their problems. Everybody won.” But those were the days of detente between Moscow and Washington — a word that hardly applies to the current state of affairs.