Could Russia Turn Snowden into a Bargaining Chip?
250 days ago
According to President Obamas statement today there are high level discussions underway with Russia to find a solution to the extradition of Edward Snowden. So far it is far from clear that Russia will deliver Snowden to the U.S. That being said, it is crucial to pay attention to the underlying messages and meanings hidden within officially made statements by both countries. Lets examine a few hidden messages:
In his latest statements President Vladimir Putin says NSA leaker Edward Snowden may stay in Russia, if he wants to, but only if he stops activities aimed against the United States:
“If he wants to stay here, there is one condition: He must stop his work aimed at harming our American partners, as strange as that sounds coming from my lips, if he wants to go away somewhere and someone will accept him there, by all means,” Putin said.
The above comment seems to be a major shift by the President of Russia who had ignored and adamantly snubbed U.S. calls to extradite Snowden. The logical questions to follow this comment would be:
What happened? What did recent discussions (or bargaining) between the Russian and US governments entail?
Lets examine another statement by Putin that may hold a key to more answers:
Russia has never extradited anyone and is not going to do so. Same as no one has ever been extradited to Russia,
Now for me this statement carries a pretty punchy zing. It brings to mind a certain someone who was not extradited to Russia despite all requests and pressure from the Russian government. Are you thinking what I am thinking? Allow me to provide some refreshers for readers who may have missed the boat (or the ship) on a very stormy case between the Russian and American governments only a year ago:
The US Justice Department has turned down Russias request to extradite businessman Viktor Bout, currently serving a 25-year prison term. Moscow condemned the decision, saying it will continue to advocate for Bout. The US Justice Department refused the extradition request over the seriousness of the crimes with which he was charged, among other reasons, Bouts lawyer Albert Dayan said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry condemned the US Justice Departments decision. Konstantin Dolgov, Foreign Ministry Commissioner for Human Rights, Democracy and Rule of Law said that Russia will continue advocating for the businessmans, who has not committed any crimes against the US or American citizens.
Bout was arrested in Thailand in 2008 on the request of the United States.In November 2011, the former Soviet officer and founder of an air cargo company, was convicted by a New York federal court of conspiracy to kill Americans and US officials, and of supplying arms to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC), which the US government lists as a terrorist organization.
In April 2012, a US judge sentenced the Russian businessman to 25 years in jail, five years of supervised release, and a $15 million fine. Bout was charged with conspiracy to acquire and export surface-to-air anti-aircraft missiles. US prosecutors sought a life sentence for conspiracy to murder US citizens, but the judge found the charges unfounded.
Now, re-read this recent statement by Putin, Russia has never extradited anyone and is not going to do so. Same as no one has ever been extradited to Russia, while bearing in mind the still fresh old grudges involving Viktor Bout. Do you see parallels? Are you seeing the bargaining chips piling up before each party? Possible? Maybe.
Last week the following statement (forgive the source) got my attention and perked up my ears:
“It could be handled differently if not for two words: Viktor Bout,” said The New Republic’s Julia Ioffe, referring to the Russian arms smuggler who was captured in Thailand and taken to the U.S. for trial. Bout is currently in prison in the U.S.
“The Russians were about as mad at that as we are about Edward Snowden. And we did not extradite him as Russia asked. I think maybe the Americans would have been able to get a better deal before Victor Bout,” said Ioffe.
Well, that was last week. Today, with the recent shifts in the Russian governments stand and tone I am thinking (and seeing) bargaining chips- one side with Snowden chips, the other side with Bout chips. How about you?
Sibel Edmonds is the Publisher & Editor of Boiling Frogs Post and the author of the Memoir Classified Woman: The Sibel Edmonds Story. She is the recipient of the 2006 PEN Newman’s Own First Amendment Award for her commitment to preserving the free flow of information in the United States in a time of growing international isolation and increasing government secrecy Ms. Edmonds has a MA in Public Policy and International Commerce from George Mason University, a BA in Criminal Justice and Psychology from George Washington University.