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Aamer Madhani,USA TODAY

With his decision to cancel next month's planned summit with Russia's President Vladimir Putin, President Obama took a principled stance that has lawmakers on both sides of the aisle cheering him for finally standing up to an international bully.

But the decision, which comes as the always-complicated relationship with Russia has become particularly strained over the Edward Snowden saga, could come at a great cost.

In announcing the decision to scrap the September meeting, the White House said the move was about more than Russia's refusal to hand over fugitive former intelligence analyst Snowden, who was granted temporary asylum in Russia last month.

Obama and Putin have been butting heads about other issues, from Moscow's backing of Bashar Assad's regime in Syria to differences on missile defense. Because of the deep divide on a number of issues, the White House said that the long-anticipated meeting would be counter-productive at this point.

But Obama hinted at his deep frustration with the Snowden situation in an appearance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Wednesday night when he observed that the situation was "reflective of some underlying challenges that we've had with Russia lately."

"There have been times where they slip back into Cold War thinking and a Cold War mentality," Obama went on to tell Leno. "And what I consistently say to them, and what I say to President Putin, is that's the past and we've got to think about the future, and there's no reason why we shouldn't be able to cooperate more effectively than we do."

Obama's frustration with Putin is well-founded. Indeed, that 2009 "reset" of U.S.-Russia relations seems like a world away. But in taking what will undoubtedly be seen as a diplomatic slap at the Russians, Obama might just be failing to heed his own advice to keep his eyes on the important issues that lie ahead for the two countries.

Ahead of his and Putin's elections last year, Obama faced criticism when a hot mike at a summit in Seoul caught him telling the then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he'll have "more flexibility" after his re-election to work with the Russians on some contentious, and high-priority issues such as building a missile defense system in Europe and reducing nuclear stockpiles.

With his brush-back of Putin, Obama may have just lost whatever flexibility he had.

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