US response to Russia's decision on Snowden is 'an act of bullying' - expert
Doesn’t Mr. Schumer sound like a bully himself? I mean him and all the other American politicians pushing Obama not to go to the G-20 and giving all the superfluous reasons for it really reminds of high school peer pressure.
Yes, it is very difficult to make the case that if you give a temporary political asylum to somebody, that it is an act of bullying. It is the act of bullying if the superpower who feels offended considers the whole world to be a toyster. Then I suppose that if anybody commits an act against it, they would call that bullying, although I think that is turning the language upside-down. I think there is also the element that people like that Schumer is bluffing to a certain extent. There is also calls for example of boycotting the Sochi Winter Olympics and so on, and it could well be that they are making more of it than they seriously intend. That is also possible.
What do you think, you and other analysts, was that possible that Russia would not give asylum to Snowden?
No, I think that it would be extremely unlikely, once he had flown to Moscow. At the very least you could say that Russian authorities were put on the spot because not giving asylum would itself be a very powerful and I think unacceptable step so that you could even make the case that Russian authorities are simply doing what they have to do and it represents no kind of defiance of the US. You could make that case.
Do you think it would be a sign of weakness if Russia did that?
Yes, once the US starts demanding that Russia violates its own constitution and I would point out that the US has similar positions that it has no authority in the US to allow to extradite anybody except under very special conditions and particular existence of a treaty and certainly the US is demanding that Russia do with Snowden what the US authorities would never be allowed to do. So, that it is very difficult to make any charge that other than the Russian authorities were doing what they had to do, I think.
With all the domestic problems the US is currently facing, isn’t it convenient to shift the Americans’ attention on an external “enemy” in order to draw the focus away from the enemy within?
There is always that possibility but you have a very peculiar situation with Edward Snowden that it is very difficult to generate this xenophobia over the Snowden case because there is clearly a tremendous feeling in the US that what Snowden did was justified so that then to accuse the Russian authorities of doing what a large proportion of the American population considers justified is a very difficult charge to make stick, I mean if you look at the New York Times, they have carried an article that talked about the extremely aggressive pursuits of informants which has strained the relationships between the government and the public. So, in this particular case I think the US authorities would be trading very dangerous ground because the public is really not with them on this.
Mr. Obama is in a very difficult situation: on the one hand he needs to preserve the support of his fellow Americans, on the other — he needs to maintain a balanced relationship with Russia. Which of the two has more weight for the US president, in your opinion?
I think the question of the US relations with Russia has to be put in the context since the end of the cold war and it is not clear that this particular, the Snowden case is that different than if you like the continuing crisis because the US relationship with Russia is to keep Russia out but not to keep Russia too far out, and that’s been the situation for the last 20 years. And then these crises flared up. We’ve said I don’t know how many times that this measure isn’t the final end of the cold war, I think I could count 5 or something, arrangements or deals that have been done and then you have Obama’s reset, if you remember, when he came to office, he declared a reset in the relations and clearly that failed. So, it is not clear if this is something new or just a continuing crisis in that relationship.
On Thursday White House spokesman Jay Carney said Mr. Obama is reconsidering his planned meeting with Vladimir Putin but would still attend the G-20 summit in Russia. What do you think will happen in the end?
Since I have no bet on the matter, I have nothing to lose, I would say that G-20 will certainly go ahead in Saint-Petersburg with Obama and I think that he will meet Putin but I wouldn’t bet on it.