If, in fact, he believes that what he did was right, then, like every American citizen, he can come here, appear before the court with a lawyer and make his case, Obama said. The president noted that hed signed an executive order providing whistleblower protection to the intelligence community. There were other avenues available for somebody whose conscience was stirred and thought that they needed to question government actions.
Obama had pledged to forge better relations with Russia when he took office. He noted that he and former President Medvedev had achieved progress on an agreement to reduce strategic arms, sanctions against Iran, a supply line for troops in Afghanistan and a seat for Russia in the World Trade Organization.
But when Putin returned to office, he said, we saw more rhetoric on the Russian side that was anti-American, that played into some of the old stereotypes about the Cold War contest between the United States and Russia.
Moscow, for example, has charged that a planned U.S. missile-defense system for Europe is a deterrent against Russia, and it gave a cold shoulder to Obamas call in a speech in Germany to cut back nuclear warheads.
Obama said hed encouraged Mr. Putin to think forward as opposed to backwards on those issues with mixed success.
The president said he didnt have a bad relationship with Putin. Instead, he accused the news media of focusing on body language. Although Putin has got that kind of slouch, looking like the bored kid in the back of the classroom, Obama said the two had had very productive talks.
He said his administration had decided to cancel the meeting because it wasnt seeing progress on a host of issues, including human rights and Russias support for Syrian leader Bashar Assad.
It is probably appropriate for us to take a pause, reassess where it is that Russia is going, what our core interests are, and calibrate the relationship, Obama said. There are just going to be some differences, and were not going to be able to completely disguise them, and thats OK.
Obama said he didnt think the U.S. should boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, over Snowden or over a Russian law that banned displays of gay pride.
One of the things Im really looking forward to is maybe some gay and lesbian athletes bringing home the gold or silver or bronze, Obama said.
If Russia doesnt have gay or lesbian athletes, then itll probably make their team weaker.
(Matthew Schofield contributed to this report.)