Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Vladimir Putin gives America the finger by giving Edward Snowden a free pass

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Let's not make too much of this.

Snowden may very well be in a transit zone at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport that lies beyond Russian sovereignty, and so it's not clear what Putin could do.

But let's face it, he's an authoritarian with little respect for the rule of law, other than his own law, and so he could no doubt make things difficult for Snowden, not least by bowing to American pressure to send him back home to face "justice" (i.e., injustice).

But that's not Putin, giving in to such demands -- not when he can take the occasion to give America the finger:

In his first public comments on the case, Mr. Putin said that Mr. Snowden — the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked documents about American surveillance programs — had committed no crime on Russian soil and was "a free man" who could choose his own destination. "We can only extradite some foreign nationals to the countries with which we have the relevant international agreements on extradition," he added. "With the United States, we have no such agreement."

Giving America the other one as well, a gleeful double bird, he added that Snowden sees himself as a "human rights activist" who "struggles for freedom of information" and, just to drive home the point, indicated that the U.S. is being hypocritical in going after a dissenter, the implication being that the U.S. shouldn't complain when he does the same, which, of course, he often does (e.g., Pussy Riot).

What fun.

Here's Putin the Autocrat standing behind a facade of legal niceties while sticking it to the U.S. -- at a time when he's facing growing international pressure, particularly from the U.S. and its G8 partners, over his support for the Assad regime in Syria. For a time, I was wondering if there was a deal to be made: I'll give you Snowden if you lay off Syria. But now it just looks like he's taking great pleasure making the U.S. look inept and ridiculous and desperate.

Let me be clear: I'm no fan of Vladimir Putin. I loathe him, in fact.

But even if it's all part of his self-serving agenda, he's doing the right thing with Snowden, letting a free man facing persecution look for a new home.

And hopefully Snowden will find what he's looking for, with Putin's admirable restraint helping him get there.

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  • I agree with much of this Michael. In particular, I'm no fan of Putin. But I think you are wrong to say he's an authoritarian. Stalin he ain't. He's slippery, but in general, I think he stays within the bounds of Russian law. And yes, I'm glad he's poking the US in the eye on this one.

    By Anonymous Frank Moraes, at 11:52 PM  

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