Russia has apparently offered to consider an asylum request from Edward Snowden, the man behind the NSA leaks, if a request should be made. Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin's official spokesman, has said: "If such an appeal is given, it will be considered. We'll act according to facts." This is an interesting turn of events that is sure to cause even more friction between the U.S. and Russia, who have been at odds over a variety of foreign policy issues over the past few years including the nuclear missile shield in Eastern Europe, the Iranian nuclear crisis, and the Syrian civil war. Why would Russia offer Edward Snowden amnesty? Is it to stick it to the U.S.? Is it to get information from Snowden? The most likely case is that it is an act of veiled hostility by Russia.
Russian reactions to its own whistleblowers reveal the country’s leadership has little respect for its own proponents of reform. Many of Putin’s critics have been jailed, and political activists are often persecuted by the Russian government. What is even more telling is that the country's own whistleblowers often experience horrible circumstances. Sergei Magnitsky, who discovered corruption within the interior ministry and tax police, died in prison after being refused medical assistance and possibly being tortured. Nevertheless, Russian treatment of critics from the West has been much more lenient, with the government often praising people such as Julian Assange. Alexey Pushkov, the head of the Duma's International Affairs Committee and a Russian politician particularly well known for being a critical of the U.S., said on Twitter: "By promising asylum to Snowden, Moscow has taken upon itself the protection of those persecuted for political reasons. There will be hysterics in the U.S. They only recognise this right for themselves." Pushkov also said that, "Listening to telephones and tracking the internet, the U.S. special services broke the laws of their country. In this case, Snowden, like Assange, is a human rights activist."
However, it is widely believed that Russia’s intelligence community and dangerous security service have been using similar technological surveillance in order to keep tabs on its own citizens. For now, Snowden, who has moved to Hong Kong from the United States before revealing secrets to The Washington Post and The Guardian, said that he was seeking “asylum from any countries that believe in free speech and oppose the victimization of global privacy.” Interestingly enough, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who has been in hiding in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since June of 2012, called Snowden a “hero.” He also called on other countries to open up their doors to him: “What other countries need to do is line up to give support for him. Everyone should go to their politicians and press and demand that they offer Mr. Snowden asylum in their country.”