Snowden Asylum Shows a Reset Failure; White House Spin Is Wishful Thinking

Article excerpt


Remember the Russian reset ?

That was the term that President Obama and his then-Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, used four years ago when they spoke of a new era in U.S.-Russian relations. The goal: to cooperate more effectively in areas of common interest. Both leaders were committed to leaving behind the suspicion and the rivalry of the past.

Two years later, Vladimir Putin, then serving as prime minister, was calling the United States a parasite on the global economy, and the U.S. State Department was putting 64 Russian officials on a visa blacklist.

Now we have Moscow granting asylum for one year to Edward Snowden, the infamous leaker of classified information about government surveillance programs, and the Obama administration talking about canceling next month's Putin-Obama summit - a post-Cold War era first, if it happens.

This reset is feeling more like a rerun with each passing day.

This isn't all that surprising. Old habits die hard, and the former Soviet Union is still defining itself in opposition to the United States.

The Snowden defection gives the propagandists in the Kremlin another chance to persuade Russians that their country is so appealing that foreigners want to come and live there. If they considered it a big deal when the French actor Gerard Depardieu became a Russian citizen (to evade a punitive income tax), you can imagine what a coup it is to draw a cause celebre such as Edward Snowden.

Mr. Snowden also enables Moscow to play up the idea that the country promotes the free flow of information, while the United States is the mean, old police state, according to Russia expert Ariel Cohen. After all, he notes, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the darling of hip libertarians the world over, has his own show on Russia Today. The Kremlin is happy to promote the absurd notion that Russia is the home of freedom of speech, not the United States. …