By Anthony L Hall
Putin clearly has no use for Snowden. But, as a perfectly understandable matter of form, he must avoid any appearance of caving in to American demands to return him immediately…
There seems little doubt that Putin will eventually hand Snowden over to his ‘American partner.’ And I assure you, he has every intention of doing so well ahead of the Opening Ceremony for his Olympic Games. What’s more, he has probably already indicated as much to Obama
. (“Boycott Olympics Over Snowden? Don’t Be Stupid!” The iPINIONS Journal, July 18, 2013)
Anthony L. Hall is a Bahamian who descends from the Turks and Caicos Islands. He is an international lawyer and political consultant - headquartered in Washington DC - who also publishes a current events weblog, The iPINIONS Journal, at http://ipjn.com
Well, such a handover now seems like a pipe dream. For, far from using Snowden as a bargaining chip or goodwill gesture (i.e., for a diplomatic IOU), Putin is using him as a stick to poke in the eye of the United States. Indeed, he appears to be grinning inside like a Cheshire cat every time he tries to convince the world that this American had to flee to Russia to escape political persecution back home.
And it hardly helped matters when Obama famously snubbed him during September’s G20 Summit in St. Petersburg, and then forfeited an opportunity (because of the US government shutdown) to make amends at the APEC forum in Indonesia earlier this month.
Which is why this came as no surprise:
Talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama are unlikely to take place this year… [But, significantly,] Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said bilateral ties between Russia and the United States require ‘continuation of dialogue at the top level.’
(Xinhua, October 22, 2013)
In the meantime, Snowden’s NSA caper is continuing to wreak havoc on practically all of America’s other foreign relationships, despite Putin’s warning that:
If he wants to stay here, there is one condition: He must stop his activities aimed at inflicting damage on our American partners, no matter how strange it may sound coming from my lips.
(Associated Press, July 1, 2013)
The latest mockery of his warning came this week when Snowden’s leaks forced the president of France and chancellor of Germany to join the heads of Brazil and Mexico in making quite a public show (to maintain street cred with their respective voters) of demanding personal explanations from Obama for US intelligence agencies spying – not just on tens of millions of their citizens, but on them as well.
But the leaders doth protest too much, methinks. Frankly, French President Francois Hollande pretending to be “shocked, shocked” by Snowden’s revelations smacks of acting worthy of Claude Rains as Captain Renault in Casablanca. And Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff canceling a state visit to Washington smacks of a triumph of political posturing for her next election over political performance for the annals of history.
Not to mention that if an Edward Snowden from any of the countries now hurling ethical indignation at the United States were to commit a similar betrayal, the world would find that they were/are doing the same thing, hence my July 2, 2013 commentary “I Spy, You Spy, We All Spy.”
Apropos of which, Obama is duly taking their calls. But I have no doubt that what he’s saying to them in private is only a less diplomatic version of how he has been defending the United States in public ever since the London Guardian published the first of Snowden’s many (and seemingly endless) leaks. Namely:
We should stipulate that every intelligence service -- not just ours, but every European intelligence service, every Asian intelligence service, wherever there's an intelligence service -- here's one thing that they're going to be doing: They're going to be trying to understand the world better, and what's going on in world capitals around the world. If that weren't the case, then there'd be no use for an intelligence service
. (Associated Press, July 1, 2013)
Indeed, some of the reaction among these ostensibly outraged heads of state probably emanates from nothing more than envy over the degree and breadth of U.S. intelligence gathering, which evidently even extends to tapping their personal mobile phones. For what it’s worth, though, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney promised all heads of state on Wednesday that the US is not and will not spy on them … anymore. (Of course, any leader who believes that is a gullible fool.)
Meanwhile, Snowden is enjoying his honeymoon period in Moscow, being fêted, oddly enough, by Westerners his WikiLeaks paymasters are flying in to sing his praises.
In a video released by WikiLeaks, Snowden is presented with the annual Sam Adams Award by former US security officers.
The video is believed to have been shot on Wednesday 9 October in Moscow at an undisclosed location, where Mr Snowden was granted asylum in August.
The award is named for a CIA analyst during the Vietnam War who accused the US military of deliberately underestimating the enemy's strength for political purposes
. (London Telegraph, October 12, 2013)
Actually, Snowden seems destined to emulate British double agent Kim Philby, who defected to the Soviet Union in 1963 and lived there (in Moscow) free of reprisals until his death in 1988. It is instructive to note, however, that this fabled “Third Man” lived out almost all of his 25 years in relative obscurity and penury, and not without palpable regret:
Kim Philby, the most successful of the Cambridge spies, tried to drink himself to death in Moscow because he was disillusioned with communism and tortured by his own failings, his last wife has said in an interview
. (London Guardian, March 30, 2011)
So don’t be surprised if a disillusioned Snowden ends up drinking himself to death too. After all, Philby’s Russian spymasters had just cause to treat him like a national hero, yet he still felt like little more than a Western mascot almost from day one. By contrast, Snowden’s Russian wards have no reason to treat him like anything but a traitorous rat.
Not least because:
Putin is a former KGB spy who prides loyalty to country above all else…
Not to mention the resentment Putin must be harboring over Snowden ending up in Russia only after his preferred Chinese spymasters extracted all they wanted out of and from him
. (“Boycott Olympics Over Snowden,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 18, 2013)
What’s more, that video of Snowden receiving an award for championing the freedom of the press, while living like a refugee in neo-Stalinist Russia, is rife with so much irony, if not hypocrisy, that it seems like a Monty Python
Unfortunately, the far more troubling irony is that, thanks to Snowden, people all around the world are developing a view of Obama’s America as a greater violator of the freedom of the press, privacy rights of the individual, and other civil liberties than Putin’s Russia.
Admittedly, this seems wholly consistent with Orwell’s dystopian world where war is peace, ignorance is strength … communism is capitalism. But I submit that we are still light years away from a world where not Russia (or China) but the United States, arguably the most free and transparent society in the history of mankind, can be fairly pilloried as the “perfect totalitarian state:”
In which government monitors and controls every aspect of human life to the extent that even having a disloyal thought is against the law
. (George Orwell, ‘1984’)
I fully appreciate that millions now consider Snowden a heroic, whistle-blowing defender of freedom and democracy. But the ultimate irony is that he is a self-righteous narcissist who is nothing more than a useful idiot to (de facto and de jure) totalitarian regimes (like those in Russia and China) whose very existence depends upon the doublethink his leaks are now fostering, as well as systematic violations of the very civil liberties he presumes to be championing.
More to the point, countries like Russia and China will only become more oppressive if they can propagate the perverse belief worldwide that they are just as democratic, transparent, and free as countries like the United States and United Kingdom. That would be truly Orwellian.
In the meantime, even though Snowden will not cause much substantive damage to US interest, there’s no gainsaying the unprecedented and incalculable reputational damage (and embarrassment) he’s causing….
NOTE: All of these complaints about NSA surveillance will seem quaint and naïve when terrorists pull off another 9/11-style attack either in the United States or in Europe. Then, I assure you, the very people now championing Snowden and damning Obama will be calling for even greater surveillance. For a little perspective, though, just bear in mind that Google, Amazon, and other commercial companies do more surveillance of your daily activities to sell you stuff than the NSA does to keep you safe. So get a friggin' grip people!