If I were Snowden, where would I go? Of course, I’m not Snowden. I don’t see how I could ever do what he has done, but – what if?
Ecuador? Not me! Ecuador is a less than stable South American nation. It used to be a banana republic, and has had 8 presidents in 13 years. It’s not central America, which the USA thinks of as its close backyard, just as Russia thinks of Syria, Iran and Afghanistan as its backyard. But it’s still the USA’s historical meddling ground. There is a long history of narco-traffickers in league with the CIA, although most of that died 20 years ago. The narcos (and U.S. intelligence) would know exactly where he is, and exactly where he was going from the time he touched ground until the time he was shot or spirited out of the country. And yes – we do that – kidnap people and bring them to US jurisdiction. Or the country could get a new government who decided to turn Snowden over. Ecuador, while beautiful with a variety of climates, is small. Physically, he’d be a marked man wherever he goes. He could not melt into a crowd. Language – easy. Culture, good to fair fit.
Iceland? Maybe. It’s a small country – just a bit bigger than the island of Ireland. It’s cold. It’s volcanic. It has a population of 321,857 (in 2013). It’s peaceful. It’s very democratic. It’s got a good GDP, at $35K per person. The Icelandic personality is one that Snowden would fit well with. But, it could change its mind someday. And, while it’s way harder to spirit him out of Iceland, (or have him meet with an accident there) it could be done. Language – hard but doable and English is usable. Cultural fit? Good to excellent.
China probably won’t take him. Why? They already copied all his stuff, whether he thought they did or not. so now he’s just a liability, although they do so enjoy their citizens knowing the USA spies on its citizens too. Language – tough. Cultural fit? Lousy. But he might like it.
Russia might, both to tweak the nose of America and to get his knowledge. Of all the countries listed, he would be safest in Russia over the long haul. Russia won’t give him up in the future. He looks Russian enough to disappear in a huge region. Russia is a place where if he wanted to get out on a bicycle or a pair of cross-country skis, Snowden wouldn’t have to look over his shoulder. He would just be another taciturn white guy. Lots of girls – best place on the planet for girls. He would have it made, and they would appreciate him. Language – hard, but not as difficult as Chinese. Cyrillic is a snap for spelling. It’s just the grammar that’s weird. Best of all – Russia is huge. And I mean, just effing phenomenally gigantic. You can drop the USA, Alaska and all of Europe into Siberia and not even fill it to the Urals. Snowden could lose himself in Russia. He could explore the place from north to south and west to east for the rest of his life and never come to the end of it.
Cuba is an option. Cuba would take him. And he could have a good life there, though unlikely a safe one in the long term. Like Ecuador, it’s too close, too much in the USA’s back yard. And a transition of power is coming. He’s got a long life ahead of him.
So, if it was me, I think I would ask for asylum in Russia. I would probably get it, and I could rest easy after that. Sure, something might happen to me, but those odds would take a nose dive once I was finished dumping what I knew. Plus, Russia would try very hard to make sure nothing did happen to me. Trust me – the FSB is good at such field operations. I don’t think anything would happen to him. It if was me, after I was done debriefing, I would take off on a bike trip, heading east, and see if I could make it to the Pacific before snow flies, then take the train back. I’d want to see Baikal. I’d want to spend days in those vast forests. If I got tired, I’d hop the train for a while.
But – if I was as idealistic as Snowden, the idea of hanging for the rest of my life in a country where spying on everyone, anytime is perfectly legal might be hard for me. (But – because of that, I would be safer from black ops attempts to get at me.) And, if Snowden really views himself as a non-traitor, he might find it hard to give Russia everything it wants. On the other hand, I suspect that Russia will go very easy on him. Why not? Anybody who thinks Russia hasn’t already copied what’s on those hard drives is not thinking straight. And yes – they have the resources to decode it – a challenge for their people. So it’s really a who-cares?
In that case, I would head over to Iceland to live out my days. In 300,000 people, I could find a girlfriend or two. I wouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb. It’s a very literate place, Iceland. More bookstores per capita than any other nation. (Not that Russia isn’t literate too. It is.)
If it was me I’d stay in Russia. If it was me, practicality would win out over idealism. But – I’m not Snowden – and this is his life, his show.
I for damn sure wouldn’t go to Ecuador. Going to Ecuador would be like jumping into the moat at the zoo and teasing the gorillas. This isn’t a game.