Within hours of Russia granting citizenship to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the U.S. government called on Snowden to instead return to the U.S. to face prosecution and warned him that taking Russian citizenship could mean he might be drafted to fight in Ukraine.
“Our position has not changed,” U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said during a Monday afternoon press conference. “Mr. Snowden should return to the United States, where he should face justice as any other American citizen would.”
Snowden fled the U.S. and took asylum in Russia in 2013 after leaking secret documents detailing extensive NSA efforts to surveil Americans. The U.S. Department of Justice has prepared to charge Snowden with violating the Espionage Act of 1917 and theft of government property, but they can’t prosecute him while he remains in Russia.
Commenting on Snowden’s newfound dual U.S.-Russian citizenship, Price said “perhaps the only thing that has changed is that at as a result of his Russian citizenship, apparently now he may well be conscripted to fight in a reckless war in Ukraine.”
Price’s comments appear to reference Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent decision to order a partial military mobilization to call up 300,000 reserve troops to active military service. It is not yet clear from this mobilization that Putin favors using a broader draft of military-aged Russian citizens.
As he ordered the mobilization, Putin said “only military reservists, primarily those who served in the armed forces and have specific military occupational specialties and corresponding experience, will be called up.”
It is not clear that Snowden faces any serious risk of being drafted, given the current nature of Russia’s military mobilization.
All Russian males between the age of 18 and 27 are subject to a one-year conscription period by Russian law. The 39-year-old Snowden is above this age cutoff.
Russia’s exact criteria for recalling those with specific military training remains unclear. Snowden did enlist in the U.S. Army in 2004 and began the Special Forces selection process but was discharged later that year due to stress fractures. His work as a CIA employee and later as an NSA contractor could theoretically be useful to the Russian military, but it is unclear that this would qualify Snowden for Russia’s mobilizaiton.
Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told the Russian state-run media outlet Ria Novosti that Snowden would not be counted among those with past military experience to be pulled back into service, because he did not previously serve in the Russian military.