NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden's fate may be in the hands of Russian and Venezuelan ministers, who met on Monday to discuss the oil and gas industry's future in the face of vital EU-USA trade talks due to take place. The former Booz Allen worker, who has supplied a string of highly damaging American surveillance leaks to Glenn Greenwald and the Guardian, has been warned by Vladimir Putin to “stop his work aimed at harming our American partners, as strange as that sounds coming from my lips.” With only a week to go before trade talks are due to begin in Washington DC, Snowden released new information over the weekend showing that American intelligence operations have been spying in secret on the European Union and its most powerful member states. Economically vital Russian energy interests may be harmed by Snowden's revelations if Europe finds America's behavior unpalatable for business.

The importance of the trade talks are not merely linked to Europe and America, however: Putin's demand that Snowden keeps quiet raises questions about Russian interests in a stronger European market. Russia exports goods to Europe worth $225 billion, with services and foreign direct investment worth a further $16.3 billion, with considerably more than half of all Russian exports being fuel and energy supplies to the EU. Although diplomatic relations between Russia and the West are usually prickly at best, Putin's attempted silencing of Snowden demonstrates that his country's growing energy interests are a higher priority than helping to sour America's already strained relationship with its allies.

After struggling to cope with a seemingly endless economic crisis in the Eurozone for the past five years, many important figures in the EU were hoping that the trade talks with the USA could help to save the burgeoning superstate from political disintegration and economic decay. The intention of the talks is to unite the two powers by creating the largest free trade zone in history. It appears, however, that Europe has little interest in doing business with a partner that spies on them in secret.

Top ranking European officials have lined up to comment on the seriousness of America's diplomatic transgressions. Viviane Reding, the EU's Commissioner for Justice, said "we cannot negotiate about a big trans-Atlantic market if there's the slightest doubt that our partners are carrying out spying activities on the offices of our negotiators.” The President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, claimed to understand the need for security “but now I go to the United States and I cannot be sure if my own friends are listening to what I am saying in closed rooms? Leaders of member states have also added to the pressure on Washington. French President Francois Hollande has taken an uncharacteristically strong stance against Obama, saying that "there can be no negotiations…until we have obtained guarantees."

Europe is in a difficult position politically, with the crisis in the Eurozone responsible for the destruction of the economies of Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland. All member states excluding the UK last year signed a treaty that forced signatories to keep a structural deficit of no more than 3% of GDP, which has led to a widespread program of austerity that is rapidly dismantling the welfare states built and maintained over the past 60 years. Political anger from the working poor is being funneled into two main means of expression: hatred of the financial elites that caused the crisis, and hatred of immigrants (particularly Muslims). EU leaders are thus stuck between a rock and a hard place: for Europe to sign this deal without guarantees that America will end surveillance of Europeans, the growing complaints about violations of sovereignty would be further justified and the union could collapse from the political pressure; but without the deal, the crisis in the Eurozone could continue unabated, which may in turn also lead to the collapse of the union.

Leaders from several OPEC member states and global gas exporters met at the Kremlin on Monday to discuss the changing dynamics of the energy market in Europe and America. The Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) considered how Russia's lucrative oil and gas pipelines into Europe are being undercut by America's recent boom in shale gas, which will be able to export to Europe very cheaply should the trade talks conclude successfully. The price of Russian gas is pegged to global oil prices, a policy on which some of Russia's European customers have recently cast doubt. Putin used the GECF platform to urge members to collaborate in order to avoid “unfair pressure,” which if managed alongside a harmonious EU-USA free trade zone could keep them profitably linked to the energy supply market.

Venezuelan President Maduro also attended the GCEF talks, of note because Venezuela is one of the only countries out of 21 to whom Snowden applied for asylum that has responded positively. In a press conference after the talks Maduro dodged questions about whether or not he intends to bring Snowden back to Caracas with him. For the United States to bring down the plane of a foreign head of state would be to commit an act of war, which may provide Snowden the protection he needs to finally leave Russia in safety. Snowden has withdrawn his application for asylum in Russia, indicating that he intends to defy Putin and continue releasing information that could cause further chaos for US diplomacy.