by Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, Aug. 9 (Xinhua) -- The U.S.-Russia spat over Edward Snowden, who exposed the U.S. secret surveillance program, is just the tip of the iceberg amid a chilly relationship between the two nations, U.S. experts said.
Russia recently granted Snowden asylum after he leaked classified information of a massive U.S. surveillance program, to the irritation of Washington.
In retaliation, U.S. President Barack Obama canceled next month's summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, citing little progress expected on key issues between the two nations.
MINOR ISSUE IN BROADER TREND
U.S. experts said the Snowden affair is a minor issue amid a broader trend of souring U.S.-Russia relations.
Steven Pifer, a senior fellow at the think tank Brookings Institution, told Xinhua that the U.S.-Russia relationship "is in a rough patch now," while cautioning against billing it as post-Cold War low point.
While the two sides have agreed on a broad range of issues including the Korean Peninsula, Iran and nuclear weapons reductions, the past 18 months or so have seen sharp differences over war-ravaged Syria, Pifer said.
Russia continues to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad while the Obama administration has repeatedly called on the embattled leader to step down, causing a strain in the relationship.
Washington has also voiced concern over what it views as heavy-handed Russian domestic policies since Putin's return to the presidency last year, noted Pifer.
Speaking Tuesday on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Obama expressed disappointment over Russia's new anti-gay law.
At the same time, Putin believes painting the U.S. as an adversary benefits him domestically as he reaches out to more conservative elements to maintain his base after losing middle class support in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Pifer said.
On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. and Russia needed to better cooperate on issues such as Syria as he and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel hosted Russian counterparts Sergei Lavrov and Sergei Shoigu in high-level talks (2+2 meeting) on security and strategy.