Putin 'Eager to Stick a Finger in the Eye of the United States,' Schumer Says

June 24, 2013 - 6:38 AM

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Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - In a state-controlled country like Russia, "it's almost certain"  that Russian President Vladimir Putin approved Edward Snowden's stopover in Moscow, reportedly on his way to Central America, Sen. Chuck Schumer told CNN's "State of the Union" with Candy Crowley on Sunday.

"It seems to me that Mr. Putin is almost eager to stick a finger in the eye of the United States," Schumer said. "In so many different areas he does not cooperate. Very few are the areas in which he does cooperate these days. And I think this action, Putin allowing Snowden to land in Russia and then go somewhere else, is going to have serious consequences for U.S.-Russian relationship."

Snowden flew from Hong Kong to Moscow on Sunday, and Aeroflot confirmed that he was booked to fly to Cuba on Monday, the Associated Press reported. From Cuba, he's reportedly planning to fly to Venezuela, on his way to Ecuador.

WikiLeaks, which has been assisting Snowden, said Sunday that he has formally requested asylum from Ecuador. Ecuador's foreign minister confirmed receiving the request.

The White House is trying to stop Snowden before he leaves Moscow.

The AP quoted Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, as saying: "Given our intensified cooperation after the Boston marathon bombings and our history of working with Russia on law enforcement matters -- including returning numerous high-level criminals back to Russia at the request of the Russian government -- we expect the Russian government to look at all options available to expel Mr. Snowden back to the U.S. to face justice for the crimes with which he is charged."

Schumer called it "very disappointing" that Hong Kong ignored a U.S. extradition request and allowed Snowden to leave the country: "It remains to be seen how much influence Beijing had on Hong Kong. As you know, they coordinate their foreign policies, and I have a feeling the hand of Beijing was involved here."

Schumer called Putin's intervention "infuriating."

"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."

Asked what those serious consequences might be, Schumer replied, "Who knows?"

He noted that the U.S. has "all kinds of relationships with Russia," some of which work. "We're trying to mutually reduce the number of nuclear arms that each country has," he said. "But there are many different kinds of relationships that are both political, diplomatic, economic. And I don't think we can just shrug our shoulders and say this is how Putin is."

According to Schumer, it is "very, very likely" that the U.S. has asked Russia to hold Snowden: "Whether Russia does that or not, I don't know. But the fact that they were allowing him to land indicates we're not in a phase of cooperation pretty much for sure."

Schumer said Snowden is no good guy, no hero:

"You know, some might try to say that, oh, he's a great human rights crusader. He is not at all like the great human rights crusaders in the past, the Martin Luther Kings or the Gandhis who did civil disobedience because he -- first, he flees the country. A Daniel Elsburg, when he released the Pentagon Papers because he thought it was the right thing to do, stayed in America and faced the consequences."

Speaking on "Fox News Sunday," Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of S.c. agreed that Snowden is not a hero: "I believe he hurt or nation. He compromised our national security program designed to find out what terrorists were up to. So, the freedom trail is not exactly China, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela.

So, I hope we'll chase him to the ends of the earth, bring him to justice and let the Russians know there will be consequences if they harbor this guy."

If Russia wants to be part of the "world community" and the World Trade Organization, "They should should hold this felon and send him back home for justice," Graham added.