Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) went on a furious tirade against Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday, just as the airplane of Edward Snowden, the leaker of top-secret National Security Agency programs, landed in Moscow.
News broke overnight that Hong Kong officials had allowed Snowden to exit the country, and that the leaker was en route to Russia. And though some reports indicate that Snowden will only use Moscow as a hub to travel potentially to Cuba, and then on to Venezuela, Schumer appeared certain that Putin had cleared the leaker — who politicians have largely labeled treasonous — for passage through Russia. Schumer tore into Putin for what he considers a growing track record of actions that go against American interests:
SCHUMER: What’s infuriating here is Prime Minister Putin of Russia aiding and abetting Snowden’s escape. The bottom line is very simple. Allies are supposed to treat each other in decent ways, and Putin always seems almost eager to put a finger in the eye of the United States, whether it is Syria, Iran, and now, of course, with Snowden. That’s not how allies should treat one another, and I think it will have serious consequences for the United States-Russia relationship. […]
CROWLEY: And just could you tell me a couple of what those — what serious consequences?
SCHUMER: Well, who knows? We have all kinds of relationships with Russia, and in some ways it works out pretty well. We’re trying to mutually reduce the number of nuclear arms that each country has. But there are many different kinds of relationships that are political, economic. And I don’t think we can shrug our shoulders and say this is how Putin is.
Reports indicated that Snowden, upon landing, was not in possession of a visa to enter Russia. This led Schumer to point out, “something at this level in a state-controlled country… the minute Aeroflot got the notification he would be coming, I believe that Putin, it’s almost certain he knew, and it’s likely he approved it.”
Should he go on to Venezuela, Snowden will likely continue to wreak diplomatic havoc. The United States and Venezuela have an extradition treaty. But that was also the case in Hong Kong, and there, officials managed to let Snowden depart citing a lack of proper paperwork from the U.S. What’s more, Snowden’s movements appear to be orchestrated by Wikileaks, the so-called ‘hacktivist’ group responsible for releasing hundreds of diplomatic cables in 2011. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is also on the lam from government extradition, holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in the U.K. for over a year.