Within a few hours of Edward Snowden’s media-heavy event at the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, where he announced he would seek asylum in Russia, the Obama administration appeared to shift strategies. Their public comments toward Moscow seemed to harden from mildly irritated impatience to outraged insistence. That rhetorical stick came with one big carrot: a scheduled phone call between President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The shift seems to indicate a growing desire to guide Russia’s calculus on Snowden – although exactly what U.S. officials hope to get, and their odds of getting it, remains unclear.
In the two weeks since Snowden arrived in Moscow from Hong Kong, U.S. officials had publicly urged Russia to return him but largely declined to criticize the country as harshly as they have during past disagreements. Snowden, after all, had been conspicuously quiet in Moscow and apparently unable to communicate even with his own father. American officials may have felt they had the Russians to thank for that isolation, which kept Snowden from leaking more secrets or drawing more attention to himself.And Putin, for his part, had made what appeared to be, for him, a significant concession to the United States: He said that Snowden could only stay in Russia if he stopped leaking information damaging to the United States.