Technician, Lawyer, Scholar, Spy

Posted on 04. July 2013

by Ivan Lavrentjev

ivan-lavrentjev-modifiedWhile people are enjoying their summer holidays, one needn’t to turn on a TV series to enjoy a detective show. Edward Snowden, former CIA employee, dealing with technical issues is said to be staying at the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in Russia. As the topic of what exactly we’d discovered thanks to Snowden was already covered here, I’d rather comment on what Russia has won from this affair.

During the controversy about Snowden’s asylum request (which is already withdrawn), Russian president Vladimir Putin said Snowden may stay in Russia if he “stops his activities aimed at inflicting damage to our American partners”. Taking into account Putin’s opposition to others and especially Barack Obama during recent G8 summit in Dublin, what a nice gesture, right?

Another particular reason for promoting Snowden’s stay in Moscow is his ability to attract media attention. It’s crucial because otherwise more negative internal Russian news will appear on the international newspapers – last Sunday Putin signed two laws, one of them prohibiting “gay propaganda” among children and another one aiming to protect believers’ feelings.

First law among other absurd things says that single persons or media can be fined for “proclaiming distorted picture of the social equivalence of traditional and non-traditional relationships”. Second one continues a trend launched by imprisoning famous punk-girls’ band members: because of your critics of “confessions, traditional in Russia” you can be put into prison for up to 3 years.

Sergei Guriev, one of the leading Russian economists, former rector at the New Economic School in Moscow and former prominent advisor to Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev, fled to France on 30 April 2013, saying he’s afraid of losing his freedom because of a trumped-up case.

When I first heard of Snowden and then thought of Guriev, I realised this could be a nice party for the old spy Putin – exchanging traitors with his NATO partners, like it happened in 1976, when Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky was exchanged for the imprisoned Chilean Communist leader Luis Corvalán.

Unfortunately, we will not see such a good show nowadays. Neither these spy stories are worth John le Carré’s attention. Partners will remain partners, Guriev will hold his chair at the Instituts d’études politiques in Paris and Snowden will someday or another escape to a country not issuing him to US authorities. And we all can return to our summer vacations.