What’s up with John Kerry, or whoever is writing his talking points? Did he really think he was going to publicly threaten Russia and bully its government into capturing Snowden and rendering him to the U.S.? (Wikileaks has correctly noted that such a capture and hand-over would be a “rendition,” analogous to the people the U.S. and allied governmental agencies have captured and turned over to countries like Egypt and Syria to be tortured).
There would be “consequences,” warned Kerry, if the Russians didn’t do what he wanted – and for China and Hong Kong, too. Russia doesn’t even have an extradition treaty with the U.S., and even if it did, it would be Kerry’s threats to interfere with the laws of asylum and refugees that were the real violation of international law here, not Russia’s allowing him to remain in Russia, or pass through its airport.
An amateur could have told Kerry that if he really wanted to threaten Russia, he should have at least had the sense to do it in private. A public threat just makes it even less likely that any leader would embarrass himself by following U.S. orders. Not that Putin was likely to do that anyway.
Putin poked fun at these threats yesterday when he declared that Snowden is a “free man,” and brushed aside the whole affair as like “shearing a piglet – a lot of squealing but not much wool.”
Kerry’s blunder here follows his unfortunate remarks about Latin America being America’s “back yard,” last April, which were not warmly received. Enough said. Someone should remind him that he is this country’s top diplomat, not flame-thrower. Maybe a little shake-up needed at State.
One of the positive things about the Snowden drama is that the major media, and therefore its consumers, are discovering that U.S. influence in the world is declining. Actually, U.S. influence has dropped quite drastically over the past decade, with South America (the biggest part of Kerry’s “backyard” ) having become more independent of the United States than Europe is; and the IMF’s loss of power in middle-income countries. The IMF had previously been Washington’s principal avenue of influence in developing countries.
NBC had a nice piece yesterday on how this loss of influence was showing up in the Snowden story:
“It certainly feeds the image of fading American power,” said Robert Jervis, a professor of international politics at Columbia University, who hastened to add that he was not sure the image was fair.
The spy programs themselves made the United States look in some parts of the world “like a hypocritical bully,” Jervis said, because of the United States’ long record of freedom of information and protection of whistle-blowers.
Chasing Snowden around the globe makes it worse, he said: “There’s nothing worse than an incompetent hypocritical bully.”
Still, the U.S. has enough influence on governments between Russia and the independent states of Latin America to make it difficult for him to leave. A wikileaks tweet today raised this point (see below). Wikleaks’ information on the unfolding story has generally been more accurate than most of the major media.