Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his spokesman Dmitry Peskov. (Alexey Druzhinin/AFP/Getty Images/)

We applaud President Barack Obama on his decision not to meet with thug-in-chief Vladimir Putin in September.

If anything, Obama shouldn't have simply canceled the one-on-one talk, he should have gone on national television and torn up the invitation. Meeting agenda. Whatever piece of paper would have been handy to illustrate his disdain. In fact he should have done it last week. Each hour of diplomatic hand-wringing diminished Putin's respect for him and for this country — which, by the way, already had to be minimal, given his granting of asylum to the whistle-blower or traitor, take your pick, Edward Snowden.

Former intelligence agency contractor Edward Snowden, center, and Sarah Harrison, left, of WikiLeaks speak to human rights representatives in
Former intelligence agency contractor Edward Snowden, center, and Sarah Harrison, left, of WikiLeaks speak to human rights representatives in Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport July 12, 2013. (REUTERS/Human Rights Watch/Handout/)

Russia has been of little help to the United States on world issues. Most recently, it has supported Syrian President Bashar Assad despite Assad's total disregard for civilian lives as he fights off insurgents. Russia's own human rights record is dismal: Putin recently signed a law banning the public discussion of gay rights or relationships anywhere around children, horrifying enlightened people everywhere and casting a shadow over the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

The argument for talking with Putin despite all is that there are still many problems to work out — no kidding — and if the heads of state don't talk, there is less chance of progress. But in this case the symbolism of canceling the visit could be more productive. And let's face it, 99 percent of diplomatic progress is made through channels navigated by the Secretary of State and other officials.

Snowden is an odd bird. Unlike Bradley Manning, who encountered information during his service to this country and felt compelled to reveal it, Snowden deliberately sought access to classified information he could reveal, then seemed surprised when the government took it seriously.

His disclosures of massive surveillance by national security operatives deeply concern us and many Americans; we can hardly say we're sorry any of it came out because the extent of spying on Americans should be understood in a democracy. But Snowden's massive information dump also is alleged to have seriously compromised national security.

We'll save the debate on what should happen to Snowden for another day, but given the seriousness of the charges against him, the nation that thumbed its nose at the U.S. and gave him asylum is unlikely to be our friend in other ways.

Putin cultivates a macho image, circulating pictures of himself bare-chested on a galloping horse and purportedly stealing a Super Bowl ring he asked to see. This is not a guy who appreciates subtle diplomacy. He is more likely to respect tit for tat. One good snub deserves another.