Senators decry Putin move as a ‘slap in the face,’ press Obama to retaliate

Russia’s decision to grant NSA leaker Edward Snowden asylum should be a "game changer" in U.S. relations, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Thursday. [WATCH VIDEO]

“Today’s action by the Russian government could not be more provocative and is a sign of Vladimir Putin’s clear lack of respect for President Obama,” Graham said in a statement reacting to the news Thursday morning that Russia had given Snowden temporary asylum to stay in the country for one year.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said that Russian President Vladimir Putin's actions had to be met with "serious repercussions" and that it was time to "fundamentally rethink our relationship with Putin’s Russia."

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“Russia’s action today is a disgrace and a deliberate effort to embarrass the United States. It is a slap in the face of all Americans," McCain said in a statement.

McCain said that the Obama administration should expand legislation that sanctions Russian human rights violators and reconsider finishing all phases of a missile defense shield in Europe.

The White House said it was "extremely disappointed" with Russia's decision.

"We see this as an unfortunate development, and we are extremely disappointed by it," White House press secretary Jay Carney said. The Kremlin acted "despite our very clear and lawful requests in public and private," he added.

Carney said the White House was "evaluating the utility" of a scheduled bilateral summit in Moscow next month, a further indication the U.S. may pull the plug on the one-on-one talks between Obama and Putin.

"Obviously this is not a positive development," Carney said.

Graham has been one of the leading critics of Russia's handling of Snowden, who was charged in the U.S. with espionage after leaking classified documents on the NSA’s phone and Internet surveillance programs.

Last month, Graham said that President Obama should consider boycotting the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia over Snowden and the country's support of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

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Graham and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) introduced a resolution last month calling for an alternate location to the September G-20 meeting that’s scheduled to be held in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Graham said Thursday that Congress and the Obama administration should issue a “firm response” to Russia's harboring of Snowden.

“It is now time for Congress, hopefully in conjunction with the Administration, to make it clear to the Russian government that this provocative step in granting Snowden asylum will be met with a firm response,” Graham said.

Schumer on Wednesday said Russia had betrayed the U.S. and called Snowden a “coward.”

"Russia has stabbed us in the back, and each day that Mr. Snowden is allowed to roam free is another twist of the knife," Schumer said in a statement. "Others who have practiced civil disobedience in the past have stood up and faced the charges because they strongly believed in what they were doing. Mr. Snowden is a coward who has chosen to run.

"Given Russia’s decision today, the President should recommend moving the G-20 summit," Schumer added.


Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said in a statement Thursday that the asylum was a “setback to U.S.-Russia relations,” though he did not suggest the U.S. take any action in response.

The White House has repeatedly called for Russia to return Snowden to the U.S. for trial, although it has taken a harder line against other countries in South America that offered to house Snowden.

— This story was last updated at 2:05 p.m.