Moscow to Caracas — the Scenic Route

Edward Snowden has finally found countries that will take him in — if he can just figure out a way to get there first. After rejections from more than a dozen countries, word came late Friday that three Latin American countries — Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua — were prepared to offer Snowden asylum. Good news ...

Courtesy Allen Thomson
Courtesy Allen Thomson
Courtesy Allen Thomson

Edward Snowden has finally found countries that will take him in -- if he can just figure out a way to get there first.

After rejections from more than a dozen countries, word came late Friday that three Latin American countries -- Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua -- were prepared to offer Snowden asylum. Good news for the NSA leaker, but as this ABC News article points out, there's one glaring problem: How can Snowden get from Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport, where he's been holed up for nearly two weeks, to the open arms of his new home?

This Passport post from a few weeks back examined flights Snowden could take that didn't involve stops in U.S.-friendly nations. But that was before we knew that the push to bring Snowden back to America would not just prevent him from landing in certain countries -- it would likely bar him from entering their airspaces entirely.

Edward Snowden has finally found countries that will take him in — if he can just figure out a way to get there first.

After rejections from more than a dozen countries, word came late Friday that three Latin American countries — Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua — were prepared to offer Snowden asylum. Good news for the NSA leaker, but as this ABC News article points out, there’s one glaring problem: How can Snowden get from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, where he’s been holed up for nearly two weeks, to the open arms of his new home?

This Passport post from a few weeks back examined flights Snowden could take that didn’t involve stops in U.S.-friendly nations. But that was before we knew that the push to bring Snowden back to America would not just prevent him from landing in certain countries — it would likely bar him from entering their airspaces entirely.

Former CIA analyst Allen Thomson took to Google Earth to answer the question of whether there’s a route Snowden might take that would allow him to fly from Moscow to, say, Caracas without crossing, as he puts it jokingly, the airspaces of "los Yanquis and their running dogs." It turns out there is — call it the scenic route — and Thomson was kind enough to share it with FP.

"Leave Moscow," he writes. "Fly north to the Barents Sea, thence over to and through the Denmark Strait. Continue south, steering clear of Newfoundland until getting to the east of the Windward Islands. Fly through some convenient gap between islands and continue on to Caracas. Not more than 11,000 km all in all, which is within the range of a number of charter-able commercial aircraft." See the map of his unusual route above.

As Thomson points out, someone would have to foot the bill — not a cheap prospect. But the route does allow Snowden to avoid the airspaces above the potentially U.S.-friendly states of Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Canada, and, of course, Florida — all of which might be crossed on the commercial flight route from Moscow to Havana to Caracas.

The geopolitics makes sense to us; any aviation experts out there who could speak to whether this is a route that could work? If not, well — there’s still the diplomatic pouch option.

Alicia P.Q. Wittmeyer is the Europe editor at Foreign Policy. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and Forbes, among other places. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and master’s degrees from Peking University and the London School of Economics. The P.Q. stands for Ping-Quon. Twitter: @APQW

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