A Kremlin official announced today that if asked, Russia would "consider" asylum for PRISM leaker Edward Snowden. The official then added that no one has asked yet. To raise the idea of asylum before a formal solicitation from Snowden, the Kremlin seems up to it's good 'ole ways. Does Russia really seek to preserve the liberties for a man whose actions she respects? Or might she just want to get her hands on our classified goodies?
Probably the latter. Russia has no moral high ground when it comes to widespread surveillance. Back in 1995 they made PRISM the law of the land. It is called SORM over there, but allows Russia's Federal Security Service (formerly known as the KGB) to do what Obama has attempted — monitor citizens' telephone and Internet communications. So Russia's political interests must be deeper than its humanitarian ones. Edward Snowden is most likely the latest pawn in the tit-for-tat relationship between the White House and the Kremlin.
Now the Cold War is over. No more crouching under wooden school desks waiting for the bomb to drop ... because it won't. And what a relief that is. But the ideological Ameri-Russo war is still in play. Russia is allied with Iran. America hates Iran. Russia has supported Al-Assad's regime from the onset. The Obama administration, this very week, is deliberating whether and how to arm Al-Assad's opponents. Russia sought to occupy Afghanistan in the 1980s. America armed the Mujahadeen opposition that defeated the Soviet forces, and many believe that particular defeat helped crush the Soviet Union all together. It's a known fact that the two countries are arch-nemeses who just won't let their political scabs heal. One of the more outrageous cat scratches came earlier this year after a Russian-born boy died while in his adoptive parents' care. The Kremlin responded by banning all American families from adopting Russian children.
It seems likely then that if Snowden asked for asylum in Russia, Putin would more than "consider" the request. He might welcome the NSA hacker with open arms — maybe in an attempt to extract more classified information from him, or maybe just for kicks.
On Tuesday, the Atlantic Wire kindly pointed out that Russian asylum seekers must go through a formal process in order to be admitted. There are four main categories.
But there is one more.
He must be high-profile American willing to spill state secrets and annoy the hell out of his government. (Check.)