GOLDMAN: Big mistake to cancel summit over Snowden
Paul Goldman is a local lawyer who helped run Doug Wilder's historic campaign for governor of Virginia.
RICHMOND, Va. – Russian strong man Vladdy “I go bare-chested” Putin thinks he has President Barack Obama over a barrel.
The two countries have a summit scheduled next month to discuss important global issues.
But Putin is no dummy.
He realizes the Russian Bear has been reduced to a cub, and is no longer America’s equal on the global stage. Being polite, we still call the meetings of the two national leaders a summit. The world tries not to laugh. Putin knows that. So do the Russians. They are a proud people. They don’t like this second class status.
Give Putin credit for knowing the best the Russian bear cub can now do is poke the American T-Rex in the eye. That’s all he has left.
Enter then, Edward Snowden, American on the loose, running from authorities here in the USA, holed up in the Moscow airport. A hero whistle blower to some, traitorous leaker of government secrets to others.
President Obama made the tactical mistake of having his administration warn the Russians not to give Snowden asylum of any kind. A very bad chess move.
Anyone who has ever written on world affairs knows this about Putin, he is a master at the symbolic gesture. He is a PR guy who has never actually been a PR guy, but quite capable of running a top notch PR firm to advise politicians how to get good publicity.
He might be old school KBG by experience, but he is new school “spin doctor” by skill.
By daring Putin, the Obama Administration gave the Russian a PR opportunity of immense proportions.
By agreeing to give Snowden a year’s free stay in Russia, Mr. Putin has now dared President Obama to cancel next month’s summit.
The world is watching to see our “play.”
Right now, the White House press folks indicate the President is leaning toward canceling the Summit to protest the Russian granting of temporary asylum to Snowden.
The President’s folks appear to think such a cancellation would hurt Putin while helping the President. I strongly disagree. It would make us look small and make people think, “Wow, this Putin guy knows how to make the T-Rex stumble.”
Putin gets cred, we lose cred. Not good.
All it would do is continue to make a huge mountain out of a little leaker’s mole hill.
Whatever Snowden may have done, whatever information he has and might in the future leak, this is, as they say in politics, already baked into the cake.
It is what it is.
He needs to held accountable under the law and we need to make sure that happens.
But in the process, let’s keep our eyes on the “prize.”
The meeting with Russia has far larger and more importance purposes than to be the back drop for a round of “your momma” between the leaders of the two countries. It may not be the old Summit, but it is good enough for government work right now.
The world looks to America for leadership. In that regard, leaders have to expect to get picked-on by the secondary players. Leaders take their hits and keep moving forward.
Snowden, despite the world’s obsession, is just a sideshow, 15 minutes of fame.
So maybe he gets the fame for his whole life one way or another. So he is the most famous leaker in the world, a poster child even for those who hate America. Assume all of that.
“So what?” I say.
Putin outfoxed the President’s advisers on this one. Maybe he even outfoxed the President. Who knows? As I say, it seemed the classic Putin play here.
If the President cancels the summit, he merely raises the stature of Putin, indeed Snowden too. Think about it, he admits to being outfoxed, and he concedes Snowden is a big deal, big enough to cancel the meeting.
The better strategy, in my view, is to go to the Summit, never mention Snowden, do the peoples’ business and sign some important agreements.
Never let Putin see you sweat.
Always let the world see America as strong enough not to sweat the small stuff.
Then, at some later date, get your “payback” from Putin. Russia will want something from us, perhaps merely participation in an athlete event, who knows?
Have patience. What comes around goes around.
“Edward Snowden who?” would be my attitude in Moscow when President Obama goes to the Summit next month. It might be that the Russians will even try to embarrass him. This would be a big mistake on their part. But even if they do it, just smile. Laugh it off.
By showing that we consider Snowden small potatoes, we actually give the Russians a huge putdown. Think about it, they make their big play and we laugh it off. The world will get it. It is the ultimate put down really.
Say to Vladimir, “My little sister got more game than that ‘bro.’ Way more.”
Paul Goldman is in no way affiliated with WTVR. His comments are his own, and do not reflect the views of WTVR or any related entity. Neither WTVR nor any of its employees or agents participated in any way with the preparation of Mr. Goldman’s comments.