The Post reports: “Edward Snowden, the fugitive former U.S. security contractor, left the transit zone at Moscow’s international airport Thursday after Russian authorities granted him temporary asylum.” His asylum is for one year, so don’t be surprised if Russia demands something in exchange for discontinuing his sojourn, but at this point Snowden is about to begin his life in the lap of Putin’s authoritarian state, a fitting image for the man who decided that he, not elected officials in the United States, had the right to open our secrets to the world.
Cliff May, president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, e-mails me: “Everything we need to know about this case is revealed by this: (1) Snowden and his supporters claim it’s all about freedom of the press and opposition to government spying. (2) Snowden has chosen to seek asylum in a country that does not have freedom of the press and where there are no limits on government spying, and indeed the country is ruled by a former KGB lieutenant colonel.”
Soon the call will go out from inside and outside the administration to not let this “interfere” with our relationship with Russia. Poppycock. That’s the equivalent of saying Russia pays no price for humiliating the United States.
Former ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton tells me that this “is just another example of the Obama administration’s inept diplomacy at work. Neither Russia nor China have felt the slightest pain for refusing to return Snowden to this country.” Indeed, although the Russia reset is now widely derided, the United States has no policy for dealing with Vladimir Putin other than capitulation and pleading.
The contempt with which Putin views the administration is neither a surprise nor likely to diminish. President Obama alternately tried to minimize Snowden (“a 29-year old hacker”) and suggested it was beneath him to call Putin (“I shouldn’t have to”), while signaling he lacked any reasonable response (“I’m not going to be scrambling jets”).
Maybe John Kerry should worry about something other than the nonexistent “peace process” or the president should select more competent foreign policy advisers. In their first real test, Kerry, National security adviser Susan Rice and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel have proven themselves to be every bit as ineffective as their critics charge. But on this the president deserves the blame. He’s transmitted a dangerous combination of ineptitude and weakness.
The first step in repairing the damage would be the cancellation of Obama’s upcoming trip to Russia. If he shows up, he might as well have a “kick me” sign affixed to his back. Unfortunately, it is the United States that is getting kicked, again and again.