No matter how miffed the United States may be with Moscow for harboring NSA leaker Edward Snowden, it almost certainly won't lead a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics, to be held in Sochi, Russia.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday that such a bold action would do needless harm to the nation's relationship with Russia.
"Our view is that we're continuing to work with the Russian government and other nations on this matter, and we hope to see Mr. Snowden return to the United States," he said.
Extreme as it may sound, the prospect of a boycott cropped up this week when Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) suggested the U.S. do just that to pressure Russia into turning over Snowden.
"I love the Olympics, but I hate what the Russian government is doing throughout the world," Graham told NBC. "If they give asylum to a person who I believe has committed treason against the United States, that's taking it to a new level."
Snowden has been holed up in a Russian airport for weeks to avoid extradition to the U.S. Last Friday, he asked Russia to grant him temporary asylum while he crafts an escape plan to another country where he could be offered permanent refuge from America's prosecutorial reach.
Graham later reiterated his position on Twitter and clarified that he was not yet calling for a boycott, but merely putting the idea on the table.
I hate what the Russian government is doing throughout the world.— Lindsey Graham (@GrahamBlog) July 17, 2013
I don’t know if putting the Olympics on the table is the right answer, but I do know this: What we’re doing is not working. #Russia— Lindsey Graham (@GrahamBlog) July 17, 2013
Yet Graham is, at least for now, alone in his belief that a boycott would be sound policy. Even Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) said it would be a terrible idea that mostly punished American athletes.
"I love Sen. Graham, we've been close friends for 20 years, but I think he's dead wrong," he said.
The U.S. Olympic Committee also said in a statement that a boycott would only hurt the athletes.
"Olympic boycotts do not work," the group said.
Perhaps the closest thing to an endorsement Graham has seen came from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) who said there should be "repercussions" should Russia grant Snowden asylum. However, he added that such a move would probably be good only as a last resort.
In 1980, the U.S. led a 65-nation boycott of the Summer Olympics in Moscow after Russia invaded Afghanistan. Four years later, Russia led a retaliatory boycott of the Games in Los Angeles.
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