Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Let's have some innocent fun with the Snowden saga

So, as predicted, Snowden was not on the Aeroflot Su150 flight to Havana yesterday.  So let' indulge into some totally baseless but entertaining speculations: were could he be?

Until this morning I had this "Jamesbondesque" vision of the FSB whisking Snowden away into a Tu-95MS which would then fly a very long range track over the Atlantic (or even Pacific) to bring Snowden to Ecuador or Havana.  While rather uncomfortable (the Tu-95 is a Soviet era bomber with zero attention giving to the crews comfort), such an aircraft could take-off from Moscow and land in Ecuador without a single stop.  Of course, so could several times of civilian aircraft, but they would be completely unprotected from interception.  This is all irrelevant since Foreign Minister Lavrov said not only that Snowden did not cross the Russian border, but also that Russia had nothing to do with his movements.  If the first part of this statement could be considered a cute way of saying that he remained in the international zone of the airport, or even in a non-Russian diplomatic car or embassy, then the second part does seem to exclude a direct Russian participation in flying Snowden around.

As far as I remember - some passengers did recognize him on the flight from Hong Kong to Moscow (correct me if I misunderstood that).  So somebody has whisked him away from Moscow, or at least plans to do so, and it ain't the Russian Air Force or government.

So who else?  And where could he go?

Again, I personally see only four options: stay in Russia, or go to Ecuador, Venezuela or Cuba.  Other options would have included staying in China, but that seems to be "out" or getting to Iceland, but that is really a dangerous choice since, regardless of the hospitality and honor of the people of Iceland, Uncle Sam has a big military base right there, in Keflavik (a base of fantastic military importance had the Cold War turned hot).

My personal choice would have been to say in Russia or China, but if not there, Cuba is the best choice.  Unlike Venezuela and Ecuador, Cuba as a world-class security and intelligence establishment which can easily prevent any kidnapping of Snowden by CIA goons.  Not only that, but Cuba is so close to the USA that friends and relatives could easily travel to meet Snowden there, while he could watch US TV stations and feel very close to home.  The only risk here would be if the Cuban regime was threatened with collapse, which I personally do not at all see happening anytime soon.  But if Snowden wanted to hedge against that, he could quietly request a Russian (or Chinese) citizenship and be rapidly evacuated in case of serious problems.

But how can one get from Moscow to Cuba right under Uncle Sam's nose, especially without using Russian military or diplomatic travel methods?

By using Cuban ones, of course!

It just happens that Cubana Air Lines has some brand new Il-96-300 which could pull that off, in particular if it had the possibility to refuel somewhere.  Finally, the Cubans have a small, but competent, Air Force which could easily dispatch a few MiG-29s to meet the Il-96-300 on the last leg of its journey and escort it to a Cuban airport.

Well, it just happens that the next flight between Moscow and Cuba on such an Il-96-300 is scheduled for next Saturday, leaving Moscow at 14:05 and landing in Havana at 18:45.  It will be a Cubana flight (CU6150) operated by, yes, Aeroflot.  Neat, no?

BTW - there is also a CU6150 in the air right now (you can track him here), but it is an Airbus 330-200, which tells me that it is probably an Aeroflot aircraft and that would mean direct Russian involvement.

All of the above is complete and total speculation based on nothing but my inclination to try to imagine scenarios.  

Before we find out what actually happened, does anybody else want to play at this guessing game?


The Saker