How Vladimir Putin Felt About Edward Snowden

In June 2013, Edward Snowden, a former contract employee of the National Security Agency (NSA), revealed that the U.S. government was surveilling its citizens (via History). Although he first leaked this classified information anonymously, Snowden swiftly revealed his identity. According to NBC News, he quietly began downloading documents while working for the NSA that disclosed that they had collected phone and internet data from U.S. citizens. In addition, they were also snooping on communication from foreign countries, including Germany. While some believed this made Snowden a patriot and a whistleblower, others thought he had betrayed his country (per NPR).

Independent writes that he was subsequently charged with various offenses, including stealing government property and for unlawfully disseminating confidential government intelligence. All in all, Snowden was facing 30 years in prison. In response, he fled Hawaii, where he was living, and made his way to Hong Kong, per The Guardian. Snowden, however, did not stay long. His next destination was Moscow, Russia.

Vladimir Putin doesn't believe Snowden is a traitor

NPR reports that Snowden intended to go to Ecuador from Russia. When his passport was promptly nullified by the U.S government, Snowden became stuck in Moscow and spent 40 days at the airport figuring out his next move. He was denied asylum by several different countries and decided his best course of action was to stay in Russia. Per Independent, the country does not have extradition laws with the U.S. Snowden has remained in Russia since 2013. HistoryColored writes that Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, not only gave him asylum, but a future option for citizenship.

In 2017, Putin was asked about Snowden by filmmaker Oliver Stone (via Reuters). Putin told Stone that although he thought what Snowden did was wrong, he ultimately does not believe Snowden was a traitor. As he put it, "He did not betray the interests of his country, nor did he transfer any information to any other country that would damage his own people." Putin did, however, suggest that Snowden should have left his job instead of leaking the information. Putin also called out the U.S. for spying on its own allies and said that "It undermines trust, and in the end damages your own national security."

Snowden's life as a resident of Russia

According to The Guardian, Snowden became a permanent Russian resident in 2020. Furthermore, he announced on Twitter that he and his wife, Linsday Mills, intended to obtain Russian citizenship in light of the impending birth of their first child. TheNetline reports that Mills moved to Moscow in 2014 and the pair married in 2017. Their son was born in December 2020. NPR writes that despite living in Russia, Snowden has continued to deny that he has colluded with Russian intelligence, saying, "I haven't and I won't."

Per the South China Morning Post, Snowden has stated that "I never chose to come to Russia." Despite this, he has built a low-key life for himself there with his family and has commended the country and its people. Snowden is now president of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, which supports and protects the interests of transparent journalism. 

He reportedly made millions from his 2019 book "Permanent Record" and speaking fees (via a 2020 opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal). Snowden has gone on to say that he would love to return to the U.S. one day. When that will be remains unseen. Former President Trump reportedly considered pardoning him but failed to do so while in office (per Newsweek).