It’s an interesting moment just now, as the White House remains guarded about Obama’s travel plans to Russia during the G20 in September in light of the Snowden affair. Across Eurasia, the departing top US official to Hong Kong makes it clear that, post-Snowden, things have changed between the US and Hong Kong.
The general consul to Hong Kong, Stephen M. Young, said the decision to let Snowden leave Hong Kong for Moscow had “damaged the very high level of trust” and raised questions about how autonomous Hong Kong was from China.
Among the choice quotes from the NYTimes:
“There was a China factor here,” he said in suggesting that the Chinese government steered Hong Kong into letting Mr. Snowden flee to Russia on June 23. “China let us down.”
During an hourlong news conference, Mr. Young occasionally directed pointed words at Beijing’s influence here, and at one point upbraided a reporter from a mainland Chinese newspaper, saying, “I wish you would be more objective,” adding, “but you have your masters in Beijing.”
(Pictured: Stephen Young, outgoing US General Consul to Hong Kong – photo US State Dept)
In the US’s eyes, Hong Kong takes a step closer to China, as the city’s reasoning for letting Snowden go appears to be ‘Made In China.’ Russia shows its willingness to stymie the US in at least apprehending a guy who might hold details of the very architecture of the NSA.
Domestically, Congress is fuming at the NSA over the revelations kicked up by Snowden. Courts are questioning the Obama administration’s assertions on the killing of US citizen/terrorists as well. More oversight of the intelligence services is in the air – which all reminds me of the post-Vietnam, post-Watergate era.
What’s clear – possibly even to the American people – is that Russia and China will collaborate when they need to, if there is an opportunity to set the US back. It should help put to bed this globalization-era idea that China, the US (and supposedly Russia) share the same basic goals.
Whatever the outcome of the Snowden affair, the posture of the US to China and US to Russia will be more suspicious, less optimistic, possibly less collaborative.
Hopefully, it’s becoming clear to the US that it is not dealing with the China and Russia Washington wishes exist but the ones that do exist. The high-minded experts in DC can come to this realization as more reforms are made in America’s intelligence communities to make their domestic programs constitutional again.