Putin Turns His Back on Snowden — and His Own Anti-Americanism

  • Share
  • Read Later
Russian President Vladimir Putin in Turku, Finland, on June 25, 2013.
Sasha Mordovets / Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin in Turku, Finland, on June 25, 2013

It must have been somewhat painful for Edward Snowden to turn down asylum in Russia. Stranded for more than a week in a Moscow airport, the fugitive from U.S. justice seems to have few places left to hide. He is wanted for exposing the secret methods of his former bosses in America’s intelligence agencies, and a handful of countries have already refused to shelter him, likely fearing the fury of Washington. But desperate as his situation has become, Snowden seems to have refused the one condition President Vladimir Putin set for granting him asylum: he refused to stop leaking the secrets of the U.S. government.

On Tuesday morning, Putin’s spokesman revealed this news with a tone just shy of relief. “[Snowden] has turned away from his intentions and from his request to receive the opportunity to stay in Russia,” said Dmitri Peskov. “Due to his own heartfelt convictions or for some other reasons, Snowden sees himself as a rights activist, a warrior for democratic ideals, for human freedoms.” Those ideals were apparently incompatible with the caveat Putin laid out the previous day when he agreed to grant Snowden asylum under one condition: “He must stop doing work aimed at harming our American partners,” Putin said, “however strange that may sound coming from my lips.”

(MORE: Putin to Offer Snowden Asylum, but With a Catch)

This sounded strange from those lips because defending the interests of the U.S. government is not exactly Putin’s forte. Since taking the third presidential term in office in May 2012, Putin has revived the Soviet-era dogma of anti-Americanism using a lot of the rhetoric he internalized during his days as a KGB colonel. Relations with Washington have sunk since then to the lowest point in a generation, with Putin famously declaring during his re-election bid last year that the U.S. “does not need allies; it needs vassals.”

His foreign policy centers these days on a refusal to be a U.S. vassal state, or even a cooperative partner. He has picked fights over U.S. adoptions of Russian children, over Russian rights groups funded by the U.S. and over geopolitical issues like the civil war in Syria. At home, he has cast himself as a bulwark against U.S. influence, the only leader in the world who can truly stand up to Washington. But when it came this week to a direct confrontation with his “American partners” — as Snowden’s asylum would no doubt have caused — he backed away.

He must have known that Snowden would not accept his precondition. On Saturday, two days before Putin announced the asylum deal, the German magazine Der Spiegel published another of Snowden’s leaks, this one detailing how the U.S. spied on its European allies. Julian Assange, the founder of the whistle-blowing organization WikiLeaks, said the following day that the leaks would continue. “There is no stopping the publishing process at this stage,” Assange told ABC News. The day after that, WikiLeaks released a statement it ascribed to Snowden, who was apparently determined to keep his revelations coming. “The Obama administration is afraid of you,” the statement said. “It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised — and it should be. I am unbowed in my convictions.”

(MORE: Apology Tour: What Happens After Celebrities Entertain Despots)

But Putin’s convictions have proved a lot more malleable, and in effect, the Snowden affair has called his anti-American bluff. It has shown that his venom toward Washington is the act of a paper tiger, drawing political capital from the antagonisms of the Cold War. But he does not actually want to revive those antagonisms, certainly not for the sake of protecting a U.S. fugitive. At least in part, that is because Putin does not share the values that fugitive extols.

In the past few days, phrases like human rights and democratic values have issued from unlikely lips in Moscow, and they have sounded hollow to the point of comedy. Meeting on Monday during a session of the Public Chamber, an advisory body to the Kremlin, some of the diehards of the Russian establishment morphed into a Snowden pep squad, waxing self-righteous all of a sudden about transparency and freedom of speech. Listening to their defense of Snowden’s actions felt like watching bankers form a drum circle at an Occupy Wall Street event, and perhaps the prospect of such company encouraged Snowden to take his chances at the airport.

As long as he stays there, cornered in the transit zone, Putin will also have no good options. As the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta pointed out in a biting editorial on Tuesday, even granting him asylum unconditionally would not offer Putin much of an upside at this point. It would not be taken as a principled step because Russia has never truly defended Snowden’s principles. “The only thing Russia has consistently defended on the world stage is its own sovereignty,” the paper wrote. “The principle of noninterference in its own affairs.” By that principle, it cannot bend to the U.S. demands to extradite Snowden. But neither, apparently, can it take the principled step of granting him asylum. Morally, then, Russia is stuck in a kind of limbo, somewhat like the legal limbo of Snowden’s life in the transit zone — neither here nor there.

MORE: Snowden and Putin: U.S. Whistle-Blower’s Fate Is in Russian President’s Hands
91 comments
Timothy Ter-ese
Timothy Ter-ese

russia does not protect civil liberties so i'm not surprised that they are hot willing to grant asylum to snowden

Eric Laroze
Eric Laroze

not above a little spying yourself,are you frank?Troll.

MuricanBob
MuricanBob

If you support this traitor you are automatically gay and in al Qaeda!!! Liberal freaks!!!!!!! Liberal fktards!!!! NSA is our home! MURICA!!

Frank van 't Veer
Frank van 't Veer

if you post something once, there will be a big fuss about it. a week later; everyone has forgotten. with his continuous releasing of little pieces of information, the topic stays in the news and relevant. he's a smart man.

Frank van 't Veer
Frank van 't Veer

He's only a traitor if you are on the side of restricting liberties of the population. He's a hero who sacrificed his good life for something he believes in to protect the masses.

AustinTexas1961
AustinTexas1961

I believe that Putin is bemused by Snowden because Russia is probably doing the very same sort of surveillance of its own people and others around the world.  

Eric Laroze
Eric Laroze

They're done with him.He's obsolete.I told everyone he's just a bumbling fool who thought he was important.Maybe he can go to Egypt!BWAHAAHAA!

JackKing
JackKing

i see that time is yet again shilling for the neocon imperialists

Kathy Trevino
Kathy Trevino

He did not turn his back on Snowden. This is a hook. You need to spend a little more time on your titles. Snowden should take the offer as he has already released all the information he had. The information is now in the hands where the government has not teeth in. We need to make it where this very young man can go home to a hero's welcome.

Ian Avalis
Ian Avalis

He's only a "traitor" depending on who's "side" you're on.

Nika Tagieva Nagieva
Nika Tagieva Nagieva

impolite to hold on to someone else's stolen dirty undies : ) u either go laundry, or get out with it : ) Edward is running round flagging it in his backyard : )

Ashiq Naik
Ashiq Naik

what about the taliban guys, they can protect himmmm

Adam Arthur
Adam Arthur

The short form: okay, so the U.S. intelligence community has a policy to investigate foreign nationals who they have reason to believe are suspicious (FISA warrants, etc.) This includes monitoring phone signals, the lengths of phone calls, etc. Unfortunately, this includes the fact that they sometimes have to collect information about U.S. citizens in order to collect complete and accurate intelligence. We Americans tend to be very antsy and neurotic about our civil liberties, and get easily frightened when we feel they are being threatened. To many people, this practice seems to violate the fourth amendment. To many people, Snowden revealing this information was extremely shocking and disturbing (never mind that similar information had been published as far back as 2006 - nobody really freaked and panicked until it made the front page of The Guardian et al. a month or so ago). There are a few things people generally don't understand about this, such as that the NSA generally deals in SIGINT (signals intelligence), so saying that they "listen in" on your phone calls is inaccurate. This was explained in a public statement by the NSA on their website. Look it up.

Virgil Hicks
Virgil Hicks

When tyrants stab their own people in the back, go figure what they will do to others. Need we paint a picture?

Adam Arthur
Adam Arthur

Manning betrayed his uniform and his country.

Henry Jaworski
Henry Jaworski

funny enough he seems to be fine working with obama, I guess birds of a feather eh?

Henry Jaworski
Henry Jaworski

yeah I'm sure he will receive a fair trial, just like Bradley manning, who are you kidding? he gave up a good life to do what he did

Laura Gonzales
Laura Gonzales

Ironic that Snowden would now have to seek asylum in other countries whose governments probably offer less civil liberties than the US.

Simpk Shan
Simpk Shan

if snowden believes in his righteousness he should come back to the states and stand up for it.

Brian Shepherd
Brian Shepherd

putin=obama=morsi=trouble=failure=watch out world.

Sayali Wagh
Sayali Wagh

China or India should give him a hide

Lheo Chan
Lheo Chan

Why don't he just go to Assange's protected shelter in Equadorian embassy in London?y

Marisa Gonon
Marisa Gonon

Every country has had spies i don't know what is the scandal?

КириллСоловьев
КириллСоловьев

I live in Russia, and I consider him as the ordinary traitor, instead of the dissident or the fighter for human rights who has to be punished. I absolutely agree with Kerry that all investigations and the countries do it! But we shouldn't give out it only for the reason that the USA never would give out to Russia the similar person, and would make still bigger scandal. So also it is necessary to you Americans, burn in a hell!  

And as for the silly author, once again with offensive Russophobic article! What tiger? What backing back? Fright? Yes we wanted to spit on your states! Putin told it only in that context that understands, we (Russia) too can appear in the same situation as well as the USA therefore to hit now itself into a breast and to act as the fighter for the traitor to a smaller measure silly!

Grace Monie
Grace Monie

Look what I found about Mother Russia ... The USSR asked for a white-colored Coke so that it looked like vodka! Who doesn’t enjoy a Coca-Cola every now and then? This was a problem for the Soviet Union back in the cold war. The Soviets were against the American imperialism; however, they were not able to resist the flavor of an authentic and delicious Coca-Cola. George Zhukov who declared himself as a fan of Coca-Cola, asked the Coca-Cola company to create a new kind of Coca-Cola that was less “Americanish”.It was named White Coke, and it's color resembled vodka so that he would not be seen drinking Coca-Cola in public, as it was regarded in the Soviet Union as a symbol of American Imperialism. Luckily for him, the Coca-Cola Company was able to find a chemist who could remove the coloring from the beverage, thereby granting Zhukov’s wish! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Coke

epenguin
epenguin

@Kathy Trevino As long as hes tried for treason, as the Constitution of the United States says.  You know that document you stand on for freedom of speech and the press and such.  Treason is in there also, or should we just quote the laws we like?  He needs a bullet in his head and not a heros welcome, but then again, what he said is probably news to you.

epenguin
epenguin

@Adam Arthur Thank you well said.  The problem is, your stating facts to the brain dead who think that what Snowden said was news.

AlanHall
AlanHall

@Adam Arthur Best comment yet. 

AlanHall
AlanHall

@КириллСоловьев 

How low can a country go when it to hit now itself into a breast?

Hope they give you a potato that isn't rotten this week. You deserve it for standing up for Mother Russia. Bon appetite!

AlanHall
AlanHall

@Grace Monie Coca Cola refused, however, to change the white curvy shape on their cans to a gold sickle and hammer.

JohnKearney
JohnKearney

@epenguin He hasn't commited treason, for that he would have to aid a congressionally declared enemy of the state. And as there are no declared enemies right now he can't have commited treason.

КириллСоловьев
КириллСоловьев

@AlanHall @КириллСоловьев

Be confident in Russia everything excellent! And you listen to your pro-governmental propaganda Russophobic mass media less! I hope in a hell you will force thousands guilty gays, in your countries birth rate will stop, and your lands will be seized by Muslims) the stupid Yankee

u_jeen
u_jeen

@КириллСоловьев @AlanHall 

>Be confident in Russia everything excellent! 

Hahhahah... facepalm.. I hear the same sh*t all the time from Kremlin paid wh*res like you... there is nothing excellent in Russia..and as the years pass by it becomes worse and worse...Russia is a police state controlled by a group of thieves and crooks...