Welcome to Vienna Mr. President!
Photo: Heinz-Peter Bader/Reuters
The shenanigans surrounding the blocking and subsequent search of Bolivian President Evo Morales' plane last week will probably never be publicly explained. That is the way of these things. Fear not, I have an expansive conspiracy theory that reveals everything. Like most good conspiracy theories, this one hasn't a shred of proof. 100% unadulterated speculation.
For those not following the story breathlessly, here is a write up from The Guardian. The brief version is that Morales was flying home to Bolivia after meetings in Moscow. France, Italy, Spain and Portugal denied passage to the plane which ended up in Vienna. There it was searched by the Austrians to determine if Edward Snowden was on board. He was not. These airspace closures were, as has been admitted, requested by the Americans who were apparently convinced Snowden was on the plane. Just about everyone in South America is up in arms over the incident. The European governments in question are running for cover. So what happened?
Here is my guess. The Americans got information that Snowden was on the plane, and they panicked. Remember that they are still extremely freaked out over Snowden's ongoing leaks. They don't simply want to get him for what he has done, but for what he might do yet. So they asked these five European governments to act (France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Austria). But Snowden wasn't on the plane. And all five governments, plus the Americans, are now humiliated.
Why were the Americans so certain he was on the plane? The information must have come, one way or another, from Moscow. American agents could not have seen Snowden get on the plane. He is at a different airport, and was nowhere near the Bolivian plane. So the information must have come from from sources in Moscow, or from an intercept. So that brings us to the crux of the conspiracy theory. I think the Russians deliberately gave the information to the Americans as a nice "Fuck You", anticipating the panic and embarrassment that would ensue. Further, to get the Americans to bite on the bait, it must have come from a source the Americans believed in. Like an intercept. An intercept like the ones Snowden is in trouble for revealing. Wouldn't it be delightful if the Russians communicated the false story among themselves through a channel they knew the Americans were listening to? One that the Americans thought the Russians did not know was compromised?
If they did pass false information, the payoff was immense. The incident might be forgotten soon among the general public and media, but institutions have a longer memory. Trust has been broken. Politicians are embarrassed. Careers could be derailed. And Snowden is still in Moscow. So it was all for nothing. Somehow I think the next urgent request from Washington will get a frosty reception in Europe. Whether they are behind this or not, the Russians must be delighted.