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Friday, August 2

Roses for the Russian people, brickbats for the usual suspects

From the viewpoint of Russian Federation-NATO relations Edward Snowden couldn't have landed in the Russian lap at a worse time. Talk about being tested. It would have been so easy for the Kremlin to ship him back to Hong Kong or leave him in airport limbo until he withered away.

So, many thanks are in order -- not only to the Russian people as a whole but specifically to the Kremlin, to Vladimir Putin, to the Russian press, to attorney Anatoly Kucherena, to workers in Russian civil rights organizations spoke up for Edward Snowden, to workers at the Moscow airport who philosophically bore the hordes of journalists camped there, to Russian military figures and defense and policy analysts who argued in favor of asylum.

Even an entrepreneur chipped in with a job offer. Pavel Durov, founder of the social networking site Vkontakte, or VK (Russia's version of Facebook) said, "We invite Edward to St. Petersburg and will be glad if he joins our star team of programmers."

Given that his life is still very much at risk it's unlikely Ed will be able to accept the offer, even though his one-year asylum in Russia (which can be renewed) allows him to work and travel freely there. But in this case it's definitely the thought that counts.

And so I think the commentator who morosely termed Ed's stay at Moscow airport a "lonely plight" wasn't seeing the full picture at the time. Many people in Russia were working to help Ed during his stay in the airport.

And when I look through a wide-angle lens I see that during his stay at the airport thousands of people here in the USA and around the world were working to help Ed, and that many millions of people were standing up for the cause and principles he's risked his life to defend.

No, Edward Snowden has not been lonely. I'd say the fact that he hasn't been lonely shows off the human race in its best light.

[Ding!Ding!Ding!] Ah, I see that my alloted time for being nice during any one 24 hour period has just expired. Now on to the burning question of whether President Obama will cancel his Moscow side visit during the September G20 summit in St. Petersburg to show his displeasure with the Russians hosting an American fugitive from justice. And miss a chance to grandstand on the world stage about human rights? I'll believe that when I see it.

If history is any guide the next month will find:

> MI6 and CIA operatives running around Russia like chickens with their heads cut off, spreading cash to any group that has a beef with the Kremlin.

> Major press in the U.K. and U.S. incuding ones owned by News Corp. running front-page stories about the Russian government's human rights abuses going back to the Crimean War.

> This will be topped off on the eve of the G20 summit by a protest in Red Square led by Gary Kasparov chanting, 'We demand the same rights as you gave Edward Snowden!' Then Gary will be carted off by police because he refused to apply for a permit for the protest. BBC and CNN will be there to record the event while Gary screams at the cameras, 'I will never be seen or heard from again!'

Next I have a few words for China's top officials and state-run press. I would do a little less chortling about the Obama administration's "embarrassment" regarding Russia's decision to give Ed Snowden asylum.

China's government showed the spine of a jellyfish on the matter of giving Ed refuge as soon as it came under pressure from Obama's administration. That's how we got Ed's attorney in Hong Kong suddenly hemming and hawing about the possibility that he might have to be incarcerated during the months or years the government decided on his request for asylum -- and have his laptops taken away from him during that time. Only an idiot wouldn't have read that as a threat to get out of Hong Kong, or else.

I feel sure that the majority of Hong Kongers opened their hearts to Ed and wanted him to stay, so I planned never to say anything about the government's behavior. I took my cue from Edward Snowden, who has never asked for more help than he's been given by any government, and who's always expressed thanks for whatever help was given. But I changed my mind when I read comments in China's press that smack of schadenfreude at the expense of the U.S. presidency. Cut out the schadenfreude -- unless of course Hong Kong's government would like to offer Edward refuge without imposing conditions they know he can't accept.

All this said, a certain contingent in the U.S. press has made it easy for China's press to chortle by publishing headlines that shriek, OBAMA SLAPPED IN FACE BY RUSSIA and IS OBAMA GOING TO LET PUTIN GET AWAY WITH THIS BECAUSE IF HE DOES HE'S A YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER.

This happens to be the same contingent that has been largely silent in the face of Ed's revelations about the electronic police state or portrayed him as a traitor.

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