29 Mar 2018

Belgium's cautious response over UK poisoning

Belgium expelled only one Russian diplomat following the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the UK, while allowing 102 other Russian diplomats to stay. 

Marjan Justaert
Marjan Justaert De Standaard, Belgium
Source: De Standaard
Belgium's cautious response over UK poisoning - NewsMavens
Belgium Prime Minister Charles Michel. Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

How ambiguous can a country be? Initially, Belgium didn't plan to withdraw any credentials of Russian diplomats, saying they wanted the lines of communication with Moscow to remain open.

Belgium's tepid response in this diplomatic war reveals the government's ambition to gain a seat on the United Nations Security Council. For that, Belgium is eager to please practically any country.

"Given the seriousness of what transpired in Salisbury and the high likelihood of Russia’s involvement in this, we consider such measures fully justified," Prime Minister Charles Michel said.

Belgians wants to be the designated "bridge builders" of Europe to help other nations forge ties with one another. But with 17 other EU members expelling diplomats and coming out forcefully against Russia's actions in Great Britain, Belgium might not be able to stretch itself enough to reach both sides of this widening gap.


Details from the story:

  • Former Russian military intelligence officer Colonel Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal were poisoned with the nerve agent novichok in Salisbury.
  • More than 20 western allies, including the United States, have ordered the expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats in response to the attack.
  • Belgium announced it will send back one diplomat, who will have 14 days to leave. 
  • Prime Minister Charles Michel said Belgium is still in favor of an "open and frank dialogue with Russia about issues of mutual interest."
  • Alexander Tokovinin, the Russian ambassador in Brussels, said the decision will have serious consequences: "We can only regret it. Of course, Russia will react to this move."
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