Snowden in Moscow
the midst of its short summer, Moscow is balmy and relaxed. Sidewalks
brim with tables and merry customers, even traffic jams are less severe
due to holiday season. The only danger for men is the girls’ dresses,
they are precariously short.
few days, perhaps even tomorrow, the charms and dangers of the city
will be available to Edward Snowden, who is about to receive a refugee
ID, allowing him to roam freely the whole length and breadth of Russia
and to socialise with its folk.
will be a nice change from Sheremetyevo International Airport, where he
was marooned for quite a while. The airport is vast; some unfortunates,
mainly paperless refugees, live in its transit area for ten years or
more. For a while, it was felt that our hero would remain stuck forever
in limbo. The Russians and the intrepid Snowden sat on the fence,
getting used to each other while keeping their distance. At long last,
the ice was broken. Snowden had gotten to meet with representatives of
the Russian public: a few members of Parliament (called Duma, in
Russian), some human rights folks, leading lawyers.
reminded them that he “had the capability without any warrant to search
for, seize, and read your communications… [and] change people’s fates”.
He invoked the US Constitution transgressed by the spooks, for the
Constitution “forbids such systems of massive, pervasive surveillance”.
He rightly rejected the legal ruse of Obama’s secret courts, for no
secrecy can purify the impure. He recalled the Nuremberg ruling:
"Individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent
crimes against peace and humanity from occurring." And this system of
total surveillance is indeed a crime against humanity, the cornerstone
of the Iron Heel regime they plan to establish on the planet. When his
declaration was interrupted by the airport's routine announcements over
the loudspeaker, he charmingly smiled and said “I’ve heard it so many
times during the last week”.
Russians loved him; the whole attitude to Snowden changed for better, as
I expected when I
called for this meeting on the pages of the leading Russian
newspaper, the KP (Komsomolskaya Pravda). Now we've learned that the
Russians have decided to issue him a refugee ID and grant him freedom of
Why did they hesitate for so long?
Snowden is an American, and the Americans, like the British, are quite
prejudiced against Russia, their common Cold War enemy. For them, it is
the country of the Gulag and the KGB. Though both menaces vanished
decades ago, traditions die hard, if at all. Even the Gulag and the KGB
were only a modernised version of the Tsar, knout and serfdom horror of
the 19th century, to be eventually superseded by the Brutal
New Russian Mafia State as updated by
Luke Harding. For an average American, the prospect of befriending
Russia is nigh unto impossible. Even more so for an American who served
in the CIA and NSA, as Snowden did. He felt that by embracing Russia he
would lose his whistle-blower status and be regarded as an enemy agent,
a totally different kettle of fish.
was the case for Julian Assange, as well. When it was proposed that the
head of Wikileaks flee to Russia (it was technically possible), he
procrastinated, dragged his feet and remained in England, unable, in
the end, to cross the great East/West divide.
Snowden was not seeking limelight, quite the opposite! He wished to
stop the crimes being committed by No Such Agency in the name of
American people, no more, no less. He hoped to become a new Deep
Throat, whose identity would never be revealed. His first profound
revelations were made by correspondence; he flew to Hong Kong as he was
familiar with the place, spoke fluent Chinese, and planned to return
home to Hawaii. It appears that the Guardian Newspaper pushed him into
revealing his identity. Even then he thought himself safe, for Hong Kong
is under Chinese sovereignty, and China is a mighty state, not an easy
Chinese used Snowden’s revelations to defuse American accusations of
electronic espionage, but they weren’t going to spoil relations with the
US for his sake – the hot potato was tossed. As a final courtesy they
gave him 24 hours warning of his impending arrest. He had to flee, and
he boarded the Aeroflot flight to Moscow in company of charming English
lady, a Wikileaks executive Sarah Harrison.
Snowden landed in Moscow, but he never considered taking refuge in
Russia. For him, this was just a transit point to a neutral country, be
it Iceland or Venezuela, some part of the West. He planned to fly to
Havana and change planes there for Caracas. He did not take into account
the length to which the US Deep State would go to seize and punish him.
first, the Americans put enormous pressure on Cuba to refuse transit for
Snowden. They threatened Cuba with invasion and blockade, and Castro
asked Snowden to look for another route. No airline but Aeroflot would
fly Snowden out of Russia, and Aeroflot flies via Havana only. So the
first plan got unstuck.
gas summit in Moscow offered another opportunity for escape: the summit
was attended by the presidents of Bolivia and Venezuela, both came with
their private planes able to make the long flight. Bolivian president
Evo Morales had left Moscow first; his plane was forced down and
searched, setting a historical precedent. This served as a warning to
the Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro; he flew away from Moscow
was an important discovery for Ed Snowden: he learned by this experience
that there is just one country on the planet that is outside of the US
grasp. Just one country that is a real alternative to the Empire; the
only country Navy Seals are not likely to raid nor Obama drones to bomb,
the only country whose planes can’t be scrambled and searched. He
understood that Moscow is the only safe place on the globe for an
identified enemy of the Empire. Now he was ready to contact the
Russians; he resumed his temporary refuge request, which will probably
Russians also hesitated. They were not keen on angering the US, they
were aware that Snowden did not intend to come to them and just happened
to get stuck in transit. He was a hot potato, and many people were
convinced it's better to follow the Chinese example and toss him.
US Lobby pulled out all the stops trying to have him extradited. There
were human rights activists and NGO members in the employ of the US
State Department. Such people and organisations are promoted by the
Americans, a Fifth Column of sorts. Lyudmila Alexeeva is a leading
Russian activist of this kind; she was an anti-Soviet dissident,
acquired US citizenship, came back to Russia and resumed her fight for
human rights and against the Russian state. She is on record as saying
that Snowden is a traitor to the service, neither a whistle-blower nor a
human rights defender. He should be surrendered to the US, she averred.
Other notorious dissidents and fighters against Putin's regime agreed
with her, unmasking their true colours.
siloviki were also against Snowden. These are members and
ex-members of Russian intelligence community, who embraced the concept
of convergence of security services and collaborated with the Americans
and other services, notably the Israelis. They said that loyalty to
one's service is the most important virtue, and a traitor can't be
trusted. They pooh-poohed Snowden’s revelations saying they had known it
all along. They said he is not worth quarrelling with Washington about.
This was also the line of Konstantin Remchukov, an important Russian
media lord, the owner of Nezavisimaya Gazeta, who added that
Snowden was a Chinese spy.
finally there were conspiracy freaks, who said that Snowden is a Trojan
Horse, sent to pry open Russian secrets. He was actually a CIA double
agent, they said. No, he was an agent of Mossad, others argued. Return
him to the US, they asserted. This bottom line has exposed many American
agents, whether faux human rights defenders or equally false siloviki,
Among supporters of Snowden in Russia, there was my friend, the poet
Eduard Limonov, who called Snowden the harbinger of Unipolar World
collapse. My newspaper
KP supported the cause as well. The state-owned TV took a cautious
approach, and was rather dismissive of Snowden’s discoveries.
President Putin, too, played a cautious game. Initially, he stopped talk
of surrendering Snowden with a laconic statement: «Russia never ever
extradites anybody to any state». Then he offered Snowden refuge on
condition that he would not act against the US. This is a usual
condition for a political refuge. He added that probably Snowden would
not accept it as he wants to continue his struggle “just like Professor
Sakharov”, a renown dissident of Soviet days. He also tried to dissuade
America from pursuing Snowden, comparing this pursuit with “shearing a
piglet”, producing more screams than wool. This cautious game paid well:
Snowden accepted his precondition and applied for temporary refuge until
the road to Latin America opens up for him, while the President saved
face and did his best to avoid quarrelling with the US and with the
mighty pro-American lobby in Moscow. I should say that despite his
autocratic macho image, Putin does not control free Russian media, which
are usually owned by pro-Western media lords. His positions in the
national discourse get limited exposure.
Russian leader was not confrontational. He does not look for trouble, as
a rule. He comes off as rather a cautious, prudent, conservative ruler.
He would probably prefer that Snowden fly away, especially as Snowden,
an American patriot, would not share his stolen crown jewels with the
Russians. His granting permission for Snowden to meet with the Russian
public was withheld for a long while. However, during this period, the
US added many more names to the secret Magnitsky List of Russians whose
properties and accounts were to be snatched (“frozen” is the technical
term) by the US and its allies. Members of Congress freely vituperated
against Putin and referred to Russia in abusive terms. Just wait --
Obama will call Putin tonight and he will send Snowden packing, said the
White House spokesman. Meanwhile, the US continued its build-up against
Syria in the Middle East, and Israel bombed Syrian positions, presumably
with American support. Instead of showing any consideration, Obama tried
to bully Putin. This was the wrong tactic, and it backfired.
the same time, Russia carried out a sudden check of its military
preparedness, apparently keeping all options open. This great country is
not looking for trouble, but it does not shrink from it either. Snowden
is safe here in Moscow, where nobody can harm him, so he will be able to
tell the world about the crimes against humanity committed by the
American secret services. And Moscow is a great place to be, especially
Israel Shamir reports from Moscow; his email