The intelligence agency informant Edward Snowden is increasingly causing distress for Russia’s president.

In the history of espionage, the informant who conveyed military, economic or political secrets was most of the time a favored hero. Only those who disclosed secrets from inside an intelligence service were gratefully “milked” [for information] but were also considered pariahs of sorts: One doesn’t really like to have traitors in intelligence services. What if it [the information disclosed] concerned one’s own?

That’s how it might go with Edward Snowden in Russia.

That the former National Security Agency (NSA) and CIA man blabbed about monitoring practices in Hong Kong and then lodged himself in the transit area of the Moscow airport may have led the Russians to briefly feel malicious glee about the worldwide negative PR for the United States. And presumably the involuntary hosts of Snowden have thoroughly acquainted themselves with how his ex-employers work. But now?

Now Snowden is the uninvited guest who is bringing distress to Russia’s president; the U.S. is after the whistle-blower like a dog after a bone. If Vladimir Putin allows him to go somewhere that asylum beckons, Washington will view that as an affront (Snowden’s passport is officially no longer valid). If the informant remains in Russia with a status of asylum or temporary asylum, the Russian-American summit in September will be on shaky ground.

Putin has made it explicitly clear to Snowden that he does not appreciate him doing harm to the interests of the United States and that relations with Washington are more important than the tug of war over an informant.

That speaks volumes about Putin’s vexation with the affair — and the fact that he doesn’t really have a solution.