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Why did Russia defy the USA and grant asylum to Snowden?

I would like to think that it is because the Russians are great believers of right to information but then I would also have to believe that Hogwarts exists. 

The real reason is probably a combination of many factors

  1. He was already there and the Russians could not be ‘complicit’ in his actions or getting him there.
  2. It gives Russia (Putin really) a chance to cock a snook at the USA. Remember that during the Cold War and even later the US has been going on and on about how it protected & guaranteed the rights of citizens and how the evil empire kept people under subjugation.  This time they get to do some gloating.
  3. They appear to be fair and rights oriented giving them some moral high ground.
  4. They believe that they can keep Snowden safe. In any case, right now he is the safest person on earth. It would be totally against US interests and image to try to ‘nobble’ him. In fact the US should be doing all it can to ensure that he does not even catch a cold. Snowden is not OBL and anything happening to him will have repercussions for the US whether they were involved or not.
  5. Finally, it gives them something to ‘trade’ with the US. At some point, when it is convenient they can always ‘expel’ Snowden and get a major concession from the USA.

I am afraid it is all in the realm of realpolitik. That is how it always has been. For those who do not believe it, go back to the Cold War days when the USA and USSR supported the worst dictators round the world just to gain advantage over the other the local suffering people be dammed.

In any case, I do not believe that Snowden has information that would be of real use to the Russians. Either they would not care or they would know it already. His ‘value’ from the information angle diminishes over time and I suspect at a rapid rate. I would not be surprised if it later transpires that the Russians have privately told the Americans that they need not fear anything on these grounds.

His real value from now on remains in his being held up as an icon for ‘freedom of information’. That will, perhaps, sustain.