Snowden is now taking part in this process. He played the dutiful courtier on TV, where he was seen by tens of millions of Russians; he expressed his tentative and circuitous criticisms in an English-language foreign newspaper.
Yet even in print and in English, Snowden is participating in and lending his support to a massive lie. Russian journalists will not “revisit” (as he puts it) the truthfulness of Putin’s answers. Russian journalists who do that end up dead, in at least 56 cases since 1992. Anna Politkovskaya, the journalist who pressed Putin hardest, was shot dead in her own apartment building in 2006, after years of repeated arrests, threats, and in one case, attempted poisoning.
As for “civil society”: Snowden is writing at a time when Russian forces have invaded and conquered Crimea. Russian-backed forces have attacked and abducted journalists on the peninsula and shut down independent news outlets. People who have resisted the annexation have disappeared, then reappeared dead, bearing signs of torture. To write about Russia as a normal state, in which normal methods exist for discovering and discussing truth, is to share culpability for a lie—and a lie that, at this very moment, is shattering the peace and security of all of Europe.