Snowden Requests Asylum in 21 Countries, but why?
Edward Snowden, the current most famous whistleblower on this blue pearl drifting along the universe, has requested asylum in 21 countries across the globe. Some Latin-American, like Bolivia, Brazil, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Ecuador. Some are major global, antagonistic to the United States, powers, like China, India and Russia. But, he also requested asylum in certain European Union-member countries: Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Poland (source).
Why? Some of these requests seem unrealistic. He also requested a safe passage to Iceland, Switzerland, Cuba and Ecuador, countries which are probably much more inclined to agree to harbour the fugitive ‘criminal’. There’s a certain reasoning behind this, and it is actually quite genius.
So far, some politicians, mainly German, have stated that Snowden is a hero. However, these are individual statements by politicians, not by the countries they represent. By requesting asylum, he forces these countries to take an official stance in the matter. Do they grant him asylum and risk antagonizing the United States, or do they deny him asylum, by which they make clear they are on the US’ side.
Furthermore, this could cause a rift within the EU. Even though the EU is supposed to be a uniform power, at least one member half-heartedly admits to be on the US’ side: the United Kingdom. UK-US relations have, since the second world war, been very warm – which is why Snowden didn’t even try to get asylum across the north sea (err, except for Ireland). The UK has also been close to delivering Assange to the US (through Sweden), by which they made clear to honor the wishes of the current hegemon in international politics.
By requesting asylum in Germany, France, the Netherlands, etc., Snowden is trying to make clear the official loyalties of the European Union. Both to the other nation-states, and the citizens within those countries. This has been Snowden’s point from the start: he became a whistleblower because he thought people ought to know what plays behind the curtains. By forcing these countries to take an official stance, he forces these countries to expressly state their loyalties. Is the EU independent from the US, or not?
I wonder what happens if a country within the EU denies him asylum, and another, let’s say Germany, does grant him a safe place to stay. Public opinion of Snowden is fairly positive. There are no official numbers to these claims, but I imagine there’s a great majority in each and every country who supports him and his cause. What if a country, against the wishes of their citizens, denies him asylum. What does Germany do whenever another EU-member denies him asylum?
There are three options to this: (1) None of the EU countries accept his request. The EU is seen as an elaborate joke, only a front for the US and loses all credibility to for instance Russia or China. (2) Some EU-members grant him asylum, others don’t. In this case, a rift forms within the EU, and the inability of its members to form a one-sided opinion is once again proven to major powers like the aforementioned Russia and China, but also the US. The US sees who its friends are, and for which countries to watch out. (3) All countries accept his request. With this option, the EU is seen as a confident power to be reckoned with by defying the US. Russia and China will have to acknowledge the EU as a new player on the international political arena as a contender.
Obviously, for the EU-countries, option 3 seems to be the most desirable outcome. However, it is very much a prisoner’s dilemma, testing the trust within the EU. Once one member-state denies him asylum, you’re back at option 2. Why would one do that, you’d ask? To get in the favour with the US, that’s why.
The Dutch secretary of Safety and Justice, Fred Teeven, has denied him asylum on the grounds that “one can only get a political asylum whenever he makes that request within the borders of the state“. Since Snowden is still in Moscow, the request is denied. A representative of Teeven has stated that, once he can get within the Dutch borders, his request would be re-evaluated (source).
Interesting times though.