so here's an argument that one might hear at some point from putin, which i feel even angela merkel might receive with a certain sympathy: the greatest threat of totalitarianism, everywhere in the world, is presented by the government of the united states. the government of the united states is engaged in a new imperialism on a new terrain. these are capacities that should be interpreted by everyone, starting with the citizens of the united states, as presenting an extreme threat: i want you to really think about the access to power that this world-wide surveillance/control provides. any country in the world can and should represent this thing as an invasion of sovereignty. the blackmail possibilities alone - on ceo's, political leaders (including the domestic congress and supreme court), military people - are crushing. they have all the passwords, hence access to infrastructure systems, missile systems, everyone's accounts, etc. in this light, that putin has sheltered snowden makes him plausibly a brave fighter for freedom in the face of an emerging world totalitarian state. this is, putting mildly, ironic.