With Edward Snowden’s visa expiration date in Russia fast approaching, a potential escape route from Russia for the whistle blower has been blocked by the German government. On the eve of a high-level summit between Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Barack Obama Snowden was denied entry into Germany to testify before a parliamentary committee inquiring into NSA surveillance. This action has had broad ramifications for both the ruling party and opposition parties.
The idea was to have Edward Snowden appear before the committee in Germany in person. At least that was the intent of the opposition Left and Green. They cited the importance of a personal appearance to thwart any Russian attempt to influence his testimony. Furthermore, they contended, he was an important central figure in the snooping controversy. But Merkel’s party, the ruling Christian Democratic and Social Democratic parties disagreed. They stated that a written questionnaire would serve the purpose effectively. Buried in this drama is the prickly fact that Snowden, if allowed to travel to Germany to give testimony, could then apply for asylum there. Heretofore, asylum wasn’t a consideration as the applicant (Snowden)did not meet the criteria of being on German soil. So, in denying his appearance in person, Merkel appears to have sidestepped a potentially thorny issue in German- American relations.
In championing Snowden’s written comments over his in-person testimony Merkel and the CDU have effectively killed two birds with one stone. No, make that three. First the opposition is denied a victory. Second, a potentially embarrassing episode that would ensue following sanctioning a Snowden personal appearance coinciding with Merkel’s visit to Washington is avoided. And thirdly, Germany does not have to deal with the fallout of a Snowden asylum application. Think for a moment how touchy things would get in light of a US extradition request if Snowden appeared in Germany! The CDU party’s decision to deny permission to Edward Snowden to testify in person has led to some ruffled feathers in her own party. The head of the committee inviting Snowden, a CDU member, resigned in protest. Still, it appears that solid transatlantic ties trumps all- even intramural politics.
Of course, the opposition parties were aware of the long planned Merkel- Obama pow-wow and the invitation to Snowden was no doubt contrived with a view to putting Merkel on the spot. But she deftly handled this political hot-potato. The opposition , of course, has vowed to fight the veto and chastised Merkel for kow-towing to its US ally. It is not clear if the topic of US spying on Germany in general and Merkel in particular is on the agenda for the White House summit. It may be that the Ukraine situation and the Transatlantic Trade Agreement will dominate discussions and NSA surveillance will be put on the back burner.
So what is the future for Edward Snowden? He’s the pawn in this game of chess. His Russian visa expires at the end of June. It is widely expected hat it will be renewed if for no other reason than Putin wishes to poke the US in the eye in light of the Ukrainian sanctions. Stay tuned for more on this developing saga.