Edward Snowden has applied for temporary asylum in Russia, according to breaking reports from BBC News. Snowden has spent the last weeks in Russia’s Sheremetyevo airport, taking advantage of the fact that the airport is internationally neutral space. This has meant that he is safe there, but is unable to move around Russia without risking being detained by Russian authorities or even captured by the U.S. Snowden has asylum offers from Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela, but because the U.S. revoked Snowden’s passport, he cannot legally travel to those countries. The ability to travel around Russia would give Snowden more flexibility to make a break for Latin America.
If Snowden is denied asylum by Russia, it is unclear what he could do next. He could keep living in the transportation zone indefinitely, but it’s not clear that that Kafka-esque existence would be better than facing trial in the U.S. He could literally try to escape and find a way onto a boat or private plane. Perhaps Evo Morales could actually secretly escort him onto his plane, and hope that U.S. allies wouldn’t have the chutzpah to force him to land in Europe a second time.
Russia is in a tough spot, but they clearly want to be rid of Snowden, who is causing them a diplomatic headache. While Snowden is at the Moscow airport, Russia can claim that he is not their problem, but now Snowden has put the ball in Russia’s court, and Russia will have to decide how defiant it feels toward the U.S.