Lon Snowden, the father of NSA leaker Edward Snowden, praised Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday for granting his son’s asylum request.
“President Vladimir Putin has stood firm. I respect strength and I respect courage," the elder Snowden said. “He has stood firm against the face of intense pressure from our government and I have to believe that he will continue to stand firm.”
He also blasted President Obama for canceling a September meeting with Putin in Moscow. “These games of 'Well, I'm not going to go to this meeting,' or 'I'm not going to go to that meeting,' ... I do not believe that President Vladimir Putin will cave to that,” Snowden said.
Comments like these reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of the way Vladimir Putin works. He isn’t a champion of freedom and transparency. Quite the contrary: Putin has violently quashed dissent, silencing his critics. When a former Russian secret service officer accused Putin of ordering the murder of a Russian journalist, the officer died shortly thereafter ,of radioactive polonium-210 poisoning; he has criminalized homosexuality by “banning adoption of Russian-born children not only to gay couples but to any couple or single parent living in any country where marriage equality exists in any form,” according to The New York Times; and he has consistently stood with dictators like Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
But in the case of Edward Snowden, none of these transgressions matter. Putin has clearly come out on top. He’s embarrassed Washington while scoring points with the Russian people.
Putin was handed a gift when Snowden decided to fly to Moscow. It was always in his power to send the Federal Security Bureau to nab Snowden and put him on a plane to the States. Putin chose not to, despite Washington’s numerous requests, including a direct phone call from President Obama.
For Putin, Obama’s cancellation of their meeting is hardly a concern. If anything, Putin can take pride in Obama’s decision: It gives him an opportunity to brag to the Russian people that he refused to bend to the will of the West.
Russia’s happiness with the cancellation was evident Wednesday. Yuri Ushakov, Putin's foreign policy adviser, blamed the cancelation on Snowden, saying that the situation was out of Moscow's control.
“This problem testifies to the remaining unpreparedness of the United States to build an equal relationship,” he said.
But an equal relationship isn’t plausible as long as Vladimir Putin remains in office. Obama has reached out to Russia numerous times, and made progress with Dmitry Medvedev, the former president. All of this progress has been lost since Putin returned to the presidency.
On the Jay Leno show Tuesday night, Obama said that the relationship with Russia was broken because of Moscow’s “Cold War mentality.” Putin, a creature of the Cold War, has shown no signs of evolving to a more modern way of thinking.