WASHINGTON - Hints that President Barack Obama may skip a September bilateral summit in Moscow suggest that Washington is ready to accept a limited relationship with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, experts said.
Relations between the two countries have been strained by a number of issues in recent months, including the conflict in Syria, the fate of US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, and Washington's criticism of the jailing in Russia of protest leader Alexei Navalny.
In mid-June, Russian and US authorities announced that the two leaders would hold a Moscow summit on September 3 and 4, before traveling to Saint Petersburg for the two-day G-20 meeting.
It would be just the second time Obama visited Moscow since taking office in 2009, and his first visit since Russian leader Vladimir Putin regained power in May 2012.
The meeting however has been thrown into doubt as Washington and Moscow grapple over Snowden, who has been marooned at Moscow's international airport since June 23 after revealing a massive US-led global online surveillance program.
Snowden has applied for asylum in Russia - among dozens of other countries - but Washington wants him to be extradited to face espionage charges.
On Friday the White House had nothing to say regarding calls from two US senators that the G-20 summit be moved from Russia over the Snowden controversy, and was equally non-committal regarding the Obama-Putin summit.
"Russia is the host of the G-20 this year in St. Petersburg. And it is our intention - the president's intention to travel to Russia for that meeting," White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Wednesday.
The Obama administration maintained that position even after The New York Times cited officials Thursday suggesting the Moscow meeting could be cancelled due to tension over Snowden.