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Turning Snowden into an Instrument of Russian 'Soft Power' (Izvestia, Russia)


"The paradox is that the U.S. is now pursuing a man who has repeatedly stated that his main goal is to initiate a public debate on what sort of world we should live in, and on whether the state's concern for the security of its citizens should infringe on their inalienable rights and freedoms. In practice, defending Snowden and granting him asylum on Russian soil means defending values more often associated with American democracy than with Russia's recent policies. ... will Moscow manage to transform the American into an instrument of its own 'soft power'?"


By Natalia Demchenko



Translated By John Amor


July 30, 2013


Russia - Izvestia - Original Article (Russian)

A Berlin protester holds up a sign that says, 'He who shares his bed with the NSA should not wonder why he awwakens bugged,' July 27.


DEUTCHE WELLE VIDEO, GERMANY: 'No Place to Hide: a debate on NSA spying - and on German cooperation, July 26, 00:42:31RealVideo

Natalia Demchenko on who "the hero of unofficial America" should be working for:


From the very beginning, the Edward Snowden story has followed the canon of all great adventure films. The humble NSA employee decides he can no longer sit idly by as the private lives of U.S. citizens are violated, and sets out on a lone crusade against the system.


However, the gripping "hunt for Snowden" drew to a close in the corridors of Sheremetyevo precisely when that plane full of journalists set off for Cuba without a protagonist. Since then, for several weeks, almost nothing has happened. Against a backdrop of a slow-moving exchange of diplomatic word-play between the U.S. and Russia, there was just one mildly interesting twist - a brief press conference for a limited number of participants, at the end of which remained more questions than answers.


Yesterday’s events will hopefully serve to introduce some variety into the story after a month of almost complete silence.


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To start with, RIA Novosti reported that according to hotel staff, Snowden was no longer at the capsule hotel in Sheremetyevo, where he had purportedly been staying the entire time. Then White House press secretary Jay Carney was quoted at a regular press briefing as saying that there are sufficient legal grounds to extradite Snowden, and that there had been similar precedents in relations between Moscow and Washington. This statement was one among many similar hints made by U.S. officials that for Washington, the only possible solution to the "Snowden problem" would be to deport him to his homeland.


Meanwhile, today marks one week since the moment Snowden handed in an official request for the Federal Migration Service to provide him with asylum in Russia. And assuming all goes to plan, the "inmate of Sheremetyevo" could be leaving the transit area as you read these very words.


However, if hypothetically, we assume that Snowden does not remain in Russia, but in one way or the other is returned to the United States to stand trial, who there would support him?


In fact, Snowden has American supporters, and they are not as weak as they seem.


Opinion surveys carried out at the beginning of June by a variety of polling agencies show that the majority of Americans approve of Snowden’s actions. They believe that the government has gone too far and that by gathering data from written correspondence, search queries and telephone conversations, it is in fact invading the privacy of its citizens.


The Web site "We the People," the official U.S. system for Americans to petition the government, has already collected over 130,000 signatures on a petition calling for Snowden to be forgiven. That is already 30,000 more than necessary to for obtaining a an official response from the authorities, and the number of signatures supporting him grows by the day.


So a return of the former U.S. intelligence employee would at a minimum make Snowden the star of American media once more, after it had almost completely lost interest in his fate.


However, Snowden is not only supported by "salt of the earth" Americans. Well known and influential politicians and journalists have also come out in defense of the fugitive programmer. Among this wide range of figures, anarcho-syndicalist Noam Chomsky, social democrat Cornel West, Republican Senator Ted Cruz along with his conservative-libertarian colleagues Ron and Rand Paul, have all appeared side by side. In the same vein, Michael Moore and fellow director Oliver Stone have spoken out (both renowned for their film-critiques of U.S. government practices). So, too, has former New Jersey Superior Court Judge and now popular Fox News commentator Andrew Napolitano, as well as perhaps America’s most well-known radio presenter, ardent conservative Glenn Beck.



It would suffice to name only the first and last name on the list to tell you that Snowden is supported by advocates with political outlooks that couldn't be more varied, and who in their hearts have nothing in common but Snowden. There is no doubt that in the event of a trial against this "hero of unofficial America," together they could generate a huge public outcry, and in fact genuine political support and mass demonstrations in his defense.


Why should this be? The point is that Snowden can be considered a product and phenomenon of American "soft power," since he has stood up in defense of the very rights and freedoms that for years the U.S. has proclaimed the main object of its "human rights" activity across the world.


The paradox is that the U.S. is now pursuing a man who has repeatedly stated that his main goal is to initiate a public debate on what sort of world we should live in, and on whether the state's concern for the security of its citizens should infringe on their inalienable rights and freedoms. In practice, defending Snowden and granting him asylum on Russian soil (if such a decision is ultimately taken) means defending values more often associated with American democracy than with Russia’s recent policies in relation to cyberspace. Nevertheless, derisive snorts and sneers at the expense of the countries in which the disillusioned spy sought protection have ceased having much meaning. Neither Snowden nor the Venezuelan government could be accused of desiring this situation.

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And the conclusion (or conviction) that according to U.S. law Snowden is a criminal in no way contradicts the conclusion that he has been transformed into an emblematic figure. Prepared to defend him as a symbol of the sincerity of American political ideals are salt of the earth Americans, along with those who wield all kinds of political or social influence.


The only question is, will Moscow manage to transform the American into an instrument of its own "soft power"?


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Posted By Worldmeets.US July 30, 2013, 12:49pm





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