The Snowden Effect

The continued leaking of classified information by the former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has provoked heated debate about privacy and international law. Unfortunately, this debate has overshadowed the geostrategic dimension of Snowden's actions.

MADRID – The continued leaking of classified information by the former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has provoked heated debate about privacy and international law, which, unfortunately, has overshadowed the geostrategic dimension of his actions. In fact, Snowden’s revelations about US surveillance programs, and his own ongoing struggle to avoid extradition, reveal much about President Barack Obama’s conception of US foreign relations.

More than any other incoming American president in recent memory, Obama raised expectations worldwide. Yet he has proved to be mainly, if not solely, interested in domestic issues, resulting in a foreign policy of reaction. The Snowden affair highlights three elements of this: US-Russia relations, US influence in South America, and US relations with Europe.

The Kremlin’s handling of the affair is indicative of the tense state of US-Russia relations. In the aftermath of the bilateral relationship’s ill-fated “reset,” Russia has been eager to maintain its global position as a foil to the US, causing many people on both sides to revert to a Cold War mentality. By falling into this trap, the US has provided President Vladimir Putin with endless fodder to score political points and solidify his domestic position.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

http://prosyn.org/VjQTKEe;
  1. solana105_JUANMABROMATAAFPGettyImages Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images

    The Lost Spirit of the G20

    Javier Solana

    As Japan prepares to host its first G20 leaders’ summit later this month, little remains of the open and cooperative spirit that marked the first such gathering in 2008. But although the United States will most likely continue its protectionist drift, other G20 countries should use the occasion to make a clear case for free trade.

  2. velasco94_YoustGettyImages_headswithbooksstaring Youst/Getty Images

    The Experts We Need

    Andrés Velasco

    Policy gurus spend too much time with others like them – top civil servants, high-flying journalists, successful businesspeople – and too little time with ordinary voters. If they could become “humble, competent people on a level with dentists,” as John Maynard Keynes once suggested, voters might identify with them and find them trustworthy.

  3. benami152_KiyoshiOtaPoolGettyImages_trumpmelaniaeatinginJapan Kiyoshi Ota - Pool/Getty Images

    Don’t Feed the Donald

    Shlomo Ben-Ami

    For Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, appeasing US President Donald Trump is not so much a choice as a necessity: he must prove to Japan’s people and their neighbors, particularly the Chinese, that he knows how to keep Trump on his side. But Abe's strategy won't work with a US administration as fickle and self-serving as Trump’s.

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.