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August 7th, 2013
06:59 PM ET

State Department: U.S.-Russia relations a 'roller coaster' at times

President Barack Obama canceled a visit to Moscow next month for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, an administration official told CNN on Wednesday.

Before the announcement, Obama was on "The Tonight Show" and discussed U.S.-Russia relations, saying, "There have been times where they slip back into Cold War thinking and a Cold War mentality. And what I consistently say to them and what I say to President Putin is, that's the past."

"Our relationship with Russia has been a roller coaster ride at times," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in an interview on "The Lead with Jake Tapper."

The two countries have disagreements on a range of issues, including missile defense, as well as Syria, missile reductions, economic and trade and human rights issues.

Russia's decision to offer temporary asylum to Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who admittedly leaked secrets about U.S. surveillance programs, also did not help matters.

"But we also have areas where we agree and areas where we need to continue to work together on, North Korea, Iran, our drawdown in Afghanistan, and that's the balance we're striking," said Psaki.

Psaki was the press secretary for Obama's re-election campaign, and mocked Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney when he said Russia "is without question our No. 1 geopolitical foe. They fight every cause for the world's worst actors. The idea that he has more flexibility in mind for Russia is very, very troubling indeed."

It appears Romney may have had a point, while Russia may not be enemy No. 1, it has recently acted as a geopolitical foe.

Secretary of State John Kerry "is still meeting with his counterpart on Friday, because it is such an important relationship," said Psaki. "Secretary Kerry is hoping to continue the conversation, issues where we agree, issues where we disagree ... on Friday. And maybe there will be a summit in the future, but it wasn't the time to do it in September."

Obama has expressed concern over Russia recently passing strict anti-gay laws, and about how gay and lesbian athletes might be treated in Russia during the upcoming winter Olympics.

"Issues for gay and lesbian individuals living around the world are human rights issues, and there's a moral obligation here to take that into account. Human rights issues are one of our biggest areas of disagreement with Russia," said Psaki.

A U.S. boycott of the Olympics is not currently on the table.

"But we do believe we need to continue to make our concerns heard, voice them publicly and privately, and we will continue to do that," said Psaki.

For more of our interview with Jen Psaki, check out the video above.

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