By JULIE PACE | Associated Press – 2 hrs 55 mins ago

WASHINGTON (AP) — For President Barack Obama, National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden’s globe-trotting evasion of U.S. authorities has dealt a startling setback to efforts to strengthen ties with China and raised the prospect of worsening tensions with Russia.

Indeed, Russia’s foreign minister on Tuesday called U.S. demands for Snowden’s extradition “ungrounded and unacceptable.”

Relations with both China and Russia have been at the forefront of Obama’s foreign policy agenda this month, underscoring the intertwined interests among these uneasy partners. Obama met just last week with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Group of Eight summit in Northern Ireland and held an unusual two-day summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in California earlier this month.

Obama has made no known phone calls to Xi since Snowden surfaced in Hong Kong earlier this month, nor has he talked to Putin since Snowden arrived in Russia.

Former Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., said it wasn’t clear that Obama’s “charm offensive” with Xi and Putin would matter much on this issue. The U.S. has “very little leverage,” she said, given the broad array of issues on which the Obama administration needs Chinese and Russian cooperation.

“This isn’t happening in a vacuum, and obviously China and Russia know that,” said Harman, who now runs the Woodrow Wilson International Center.

Both the U.S. and China had hailed the Obama-Xi summit as a fresh start to a complex relationship, with the leaders building personal bonds during an hour-long walk through the grounds of the Sunnylands estate. But any easing of tensions appeared to vanish Monday following China’s apparent flouting of U.S. demands that Snowden be returned from semi-autonomous Hong Kong to face espionage charges.

White House spokesman Jay Carney, in unusually harsh language, said China had “unquestionably” damaged its relationship with Washington.

“The Chinese have emphasized the importance of building mutual trust,” Carney said. “We think that they have dealt that effort a serious setback. If we cannot count on them to honor their legal extradition obligations, then there is a problem.”

A similar problem may be looming with Russia, where Snowden arrived Sunday. He had been expected to leave Moscow for a third country, but the White House said Monday it believed the former government contractor was still in Russia.

To read entire story, click here.