The Snowden Question – RantAWeek

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The Snowden Question

Posted by Tyler Miksanek on July 13, 2013 at 6:24 pm

Edward Snowden, the man behind the NSA leaks, has found himself in quite a precarious position.  Holed up inside a Moscow Airport and lacking a valid passport to travel anywhere else, Snowden is desperately hoping to obtain political asylum, but has yet to receive a viable way out of his fix.

Why is Snowden having so much trouble?  The answer lies in the fact that Snowden is not the only one in a difficult situation at present.  Many world leaders face a multifaceted array of diplomatic pressures they must consider before deciding whether or not Snowden can take refuge in their country.

Vladimir Putin’s Russia, where Snowden flew to after leaving Hong Kong several weeks ago, might be in the most interesting position.  Putin has taken an apparently neutral stance on Snowden’s presence in his country, not cooperating with American requests to hand him over but also refusing to grant Snowden the freedom to leave the airport.  In doing so, he has taken a middle ground, annoying American officials by refusing to extradite Snowden back to the United States but not infuriating the U.S. by allowing Snowden freedom to leave the airport and find refuge in Russia.

Putin’s choice is emblematic of a larger diplomatic schism between Russia and the U.S.  Neither country wants to alienate the other due to needed cooperation in the United Nations Security Council (where both nations have veto power) as well as on issues like nuclear arms reductions.  However, relations between the two nations have a long history of tension, as Russia and the U.S. often have opposing foreign policy goals, a phenomeon currently seen in their differing attitudes towards the Syrian Civil War.  So Putin’s plan, at present, is to avoid appearing inferior to the U.S. by complying to American demands and handing over Snowden, but also to refrain from dramatically increasing tensions with an offer for asylum.

However, the Latin American countries of Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua have gone one step further than Russia and actually offered Snowden asylum.  Since Snowden currently has no means of safely travelling to any of countries, he has not been able to capitalize on their offers.  Still, the fact that these countries have even offered asylum in the first place shows that Latin America, which used to be heavily swayed by American interests, is beginning to have confidence to act in opposition to American policies.

Of course, Snowden still faces giant hurdles in actually making it to one of these countries, and the U.S. is likely to continue its attempts to apprehend him.  But while Snowden’s fate is up in the air, the diplomatic manifestations of his actions are already beginning to affect international relations.  Russia is once again playing the middle ground in its testy relations with the U.S. while many Latin American countries are continuing their recent trend of asserting their own policies over those of the U.S.  But until Snowden’s odyssey is complete, no matter where it ends up, the relations between involved countries are likely to be just as interesting as Snowden’s predicament itself.



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