title: 'US Russia relations Snowden' published: true publish_date: '31-08-2016 14:56' taxonomy: category:

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    For a time Edward Snowden looks likely to be the most invisible celebrity on Earth, after a spell as the most wanted man on the planet. But the question everybody is asking is not where he is, but what impact his being in Russia will have on US-Russia relations. VoR's Dmitry Linnik presents some answers. So Edward Snowden finally left his hide-out at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport and, clutching his one-year temporary asylum permit, got into a cab that took him somewhere out in the vast expanses of the world’s biggest country. Several sightings of him have been reported – in a shopping mall, in a Moscow night club. Russia-US pragmatism Both Russia and the US seem to realize that their relationship is awkward enough as it is and there is no need to aggravate it further. In diplomatic terms, neither side was dealt a winning hand in this game and they played it out without unnecessarily raising the stakes. Right from the start Moscow made clear it did not want to take advantage of the incident to goad Washington or gloat over the egg on its face, telling Snowden to cease damaging US interests further if he wanted to stay in Russia. Which is probably as much as Washington could expect in the circumstances. Some angry noises emanated from the usual hawks States-side but the White House has not done much more than go through standard diplomatic motions in demanding Snowden’s return and warning about the consequences. It would have been strange if it didn’t and Moscow knows this much. When is a spat not a spat? In the greater scheme of things the Snowden incident pales into insignificance. Washington breaching NATO’s promise – admittedly, unwritten – not to expand to Eastern Europe – that was indeed a major geostrategic, political and diplomatic spat. Openly proclaiming a course of ‘rolling back’ Russia in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics – now that’s a spat. Laying claim to ‘free and democratic’ Georgia, beefing up its military budget and, even if indirectly, encouraging president Mikhaeil Saakashvili to pick a fight with Russia - that was a spat. Plans to deploy elements of a US missile defence system on Russia’s doorstep (while claiming ABM was against Iran and North Korea) – that was indeed a slap in the face and one hell of a spat. That these US plans have now been reversed is a credit to Russia’s insistence and to the realism of the current US administration. It also gives one hope that if two-way relations can survive such conflicts they certainly won’t crumble under the weight of Russia granting asylum to Edward Snowden. The moral dilemma What were Russia’s choices and could it have sent him on from Sheremetyevo? Clearly, Moscow was not enthusiastic about Snowden landing on its doorstep. But it is just as clear that it could not turn him away; after all, the Snowden affair is not so much about the value of the information he has divulged but about the moral dilemma of sworn duty vs. morality of that duty. Even those who condemn Snowden for breaking his oath of allegiance recognize that his was a moral and ethical choice. And Moscow came out in support of that moral choice. Furthermore, the refusal of several countries to receive Bolivian president Evo Morales’ plane – which was apparently suspected by Washington of carrying Snowden – made it clear to Moscow that sending him on was tantamount to meekly handing him over. On the occasion Moscow showed with quiet dignity that it is a sovereign country and that this president ‘is not for turning’. Hardly a surprise to anyone in Washington and beyond. Edward Snowden, new legal alien The Russian media and social networks are rife with speculation over what the new legal alien will be doing next. He has been offered a job with Vkontakte, the Russian version of Facebook. He could probably do a decent book contract or a promotion deal with Sheremetyevo airport: 'our transit zones are so comfortable you will never want to leave'. There are reports that some Russian girls are very interested in making his acquaintance, though he himself is missing his girlfriend. Whatever his options and whichever one he chooses remains to be seen. But Russia and the US need to move on.

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