Schumer: Putin 'Eager to Stick a Finger in the Eye of the United States'

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said today he was infuriated at Russian President Vladimir Putin for giving wanted NSA leaker Edward Snowden passage through his country, beginning what will likely be a wave of criticism from the Hill this week about Washington's rapidly deteriorating position vs. Russia.

Schumer first chided Hong Kong, though, for allowing the fugitive to fly out of the country.

"Very disappointing what Hong Kong has done," he said this morning on CNN's State of the Union as the news of Snowden's flight broke. "It remains to be seen how much influence Beijing had on Hong Kong. As you know, they coordinate their foreign policies and I have a feeling the hand of Beijing was involved here."

"What's infuriating here is Prime Minister Putin of Russia aiding and abetting Snowden's escape," he continued. Putin returned to the presidency more than a year ago.

"The bottom line is very simple, allies are supposed to treat each other in decent ways, and Putin always seems almost eager to put a finger in the eye of the United States, whether it is Syria, Iran, and now, of course, with Snowden. That's not how allies should treat one another, and I think it will have serious consequences for the United States-Russia relationship," Schumer said.

The senator said he believes Snowden's passage was directly approved by Putin.

"Something at this level in a state- controlled country, the minute Aeroflot got the notification he would be coming, I believe that Putin, it's almost certain he knew, and it's likely he approved it," said Schumer.

"It seems to me that Mr. Putin is almost eager to stick a finger in the eye of the United States. In so many different areas he does not cooperate. Very few are the areas in which he does cooperate these days. And I think this action, Putin allowing Snowden to land in Russia and then go somewhere else, is going to have serious consequences for U.S.-Russian relationship."

What might those consequences be for the country just recently assured of unilateral U.S. cuts to the nuclear arsenal?

"We have all kinds of relationships with Russia, and in some ways works out pretty well. We're trying to mutually reduce the number of nuclear arms that each country has. But there are many different kinds of relationships that are both political, diplomatic, economic. And I don't think we can just shrug our shoulders and say this is how Putin is," Schumer said.

"Let's look at Snowden here. You know, some might try to say that, oh, he's a great human rights crusader. He is not at all like the great human rights crusaders in the past, the Martin Luther Kings or the Gandhis who did civil disobedience because he -- first, he flees the country. A Daniel Ellsberg, when he released the Pentagon Papers because he thought it was the right thing to do, stayed in America and faced the consequences. But second, he's hurt other people. You know, a Gandhi or a Martin Luther King didn't hurt other people as they did their resistance, and they faced the consequences," he continued.

"So I don't think Snowden in any way can be compared to those people and should not be made a good guy, hero, or anything like that by anybody."