PATHOS JULY 24, 2013
This morning came the news that NSA leaker Edward Snowden was finally on the verge of leaving the transit area of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, where he has been holed up for one month and one day. He had, according to initial reports, gotten papers that would have allowed him to leave the airport and set out to conquer Russia. His lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, soon put an end to those rumors, but not before a gaggle of reporters had assembled at Sheremetyevo.
In the past couple of weeks, Kucherena—a lawyer and a loyalist member of the Russian parliament—has made a name for himself speaking on Snowden's behalf. A couple days ago, he said that Snowden had changed his mind about leaving Russia for the warmer climes of South America. Snowden, he said, was planning to settle in Russia and look for work. Today, Kucherena said he brought Snowden a copy of Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, and some Chekhov "for dessert." It's time, he said, for the young man to "learn about our reality."
The reality that lies before Snowden, however, is not that of a Petersburg slum or a cherry orchard. More likely, he will be given an apartment somewhere in the endless, soulless highrises with filthy stairwells that spread like fields around Moscow's periphery. He will live there for five years before he will be given citizenship. He'll likely be getting constant visits from the SVR (the Russian NSA) to mine the knowledge he carries in his brain. Maybe, he will be given a show on Russia Today, alongside the guy who got him into this pickle to begin with, Julian Assange. Or he, like repatriated Russian spy Anna Chapman, might be given a fake job at a state-friendly bank where he will do nothing but draw a salary. (Chapman, by the way, recently tweeted this at Snowden: "Snowden, will you marry me?!") Maybe he will marry a Russian woman, who will quickly shed her supple, feminine skin and become a tyrant, and every dark winter morning, Snowden will sit in his tiny Moscow kitchen, drinking Nescafe while Svetlana cooks something greasy and tasteless, and he will sit staring into his black instant coffee, hating her.
But I digress.
As for the White House, they are increasingly pissed at Vladimir Putin for not sending Snowden back to the U.S. The threat of canceling the bilateral summit Barack Obama and Putin planned to have in Moscow in September is becoming increasingly a realistic one. (It would be pretty awkward for Obama and Snowden to end up in the same city.) Snowden may seem like small change, but the Russians' resistance to handing him over is the latest in a long string of open-palmed slaps Moscow has delivered: harassing the American ambassador in Moscow, kicking out USAID, vetoing even the mildest Syria resolutions in the Security Council. Moscow allowed a group of human rights activists to go see Snowden and publicize their meeting, and then handed down a five year sentence to the most prominent whistleblower in Russia, which the White House found especially galling. There is talk of "what's left of Russian-American relations," and also "fuck him."
And yet, Snowden sits in the airport, waiting, waiting, waiting while Washington and Moscow squabble. And it won't be over for a while.
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