Suzanne Fields

Now it's official, but subject to events. Edward Snowden applied for temporary asylum in Russia, and Vladimir Putin wants it to be very temporary. The Russian president might send him Dr. Seuss as a bedtime story. The appropriate tale is "Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now!"

"As soon as he's allowed to go somewhere else, I hope he will do that," the Russian president said, from an island in the Gulf of Finland, where he boarded a submersible glass capsule to get a look at an 1869 shipwreck. Snowden could be freed from something like a shipwreck, the transit lounge at the Moscow airport, if temporary asylum is granted, but his exit from Russia may not be as easy as his entrance.

Socialist bureaucracies are lubricated with molasses, and Russian officials can take up to three months to consider an application. A Kremlin spokesman says it's up to the Federal Migration Service to determine whether to accept his application. Some celebrity applicants are more welcome than others. The French movie star Gerard Depardieu got his Russian citizenship within days of his arrival in protest of high taxes in France.

The whistle-blowing fugitive -- or perhaps he's more accurately called a horn-blowing fugitive -- continues to be the Rorschach inkblot test, not the superhero his defenders first suggested he was. In the photograph accompanying the breaking story in the London Guardian, the man without a country, frail and trying to grow a beard, looked more like Clark Kent than Superman. He first spoke of surveillance abuses to wild applause, but when he threatened to reveal counter-terrorism methods from the mountain of stolen data, the public applause began to subside.

Ambivalence and power politics remain at play from those he asks for help. Putin enjoys tweaking Barack Obama and needling Americans for doing what Americans long mocked the Russians for doing, but enough now seems enough. He doesn't want to seriously antagonize President Obama before he entertains him in September.

He has to insist, at least in public, that Snowden stop leaking if he wants Russia's help. He knows the celebrated leaker is not likely to stop no matter what he promises. Glenn Greenwald, who broke the Guardian story, says Snowden has "blueprints" of National Security Agency strategies that could cause more damage than anyone "in the history of the United States." That sounds like a stretch, but Snowden has data he thinks guarantees safe passage to a third country.


Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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