Russian President Vladimir Putin, shown here at an interview for Channel One, calls Snowden "a strange guy," but refuses to extradite him to the U.S. (Image Source: Reuters)
Now that the fracas and outrage concerning NSA intelligence analyst Edward Snowden's leaking of documents has calmed down some, one figure who has been looming quietly over the whole matter has begun to speak out. Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed Edward Snowden in an interview with Russian state television. In a remarkably frank portion of the interview, Putin finds Snowden to be "a strange guy," and questions how he will survive in Russia. However, in an attempt to divert blame on Snowden seeking asylum in the country, Putin makes clear that the Americans may have been right in seeking out Snowden, and that it is the Americans' own fault that they are in this situation.
During the interview, run on Channel One with support from the Associated Press, President Putin acknowledges putting some thought into the whole matter while it was unfolding. "You know, I sometimes thought about him. He is a strange guy," he said of Edward Snowden. "How is he going to build his life? In effect, he condemned himself to a rather complicated life." Putin further admitted that he first caught wind of Snowden while the analyst was in Hong Kong after an asylum application came through. For his part, while he sees Snowden as having "a different frame of mind," Putin made clear that Snowden had to stop the leaks if he were to seek asylum in Russia, "and he just walked away."
However, despite the fact that Edward Snowden appeared uninvited, President Putin makes clear that there will be no attempts to extradite him, on one simple reason alone: There is no mutual extradition treaty between the U.S. and Russia. Putin notes that the United States is "possibly right" in seeking an extradition of Snowden, but because they refuse to impose a mutual extradition treaty, and are even holding several Russians he considers to be criminals in their country, Russia will not extradite Snowden under the current circumstances.
It is hard to gauge whether Putin is being honest, and furthermore whether it is true that Russian officials have kept away from Snowden. Putin has brought relations with America to a low point, but there were many other reasons for the split to occur, and Snowden was merely the tipping point. Putin has additionally left the door open for negotiation on the Snowden matter sometime in the future, perhaps during the G-20 summit that starts tomorrow in Saint Petersburg. Whether something will come out of that summit remains to be seen.