Why this story matters:
It is of course understandable that Britain would react after the Skripal attack, especially given that the Russian Foreign Ministry has shown no will to help and that Russian state-run media have gloated, calling the ex-spy a traitor who deserved to die.
However, this mass expulsion of Russian diplomats throughout Western embassies comes at a delicate time. Russia is mourning after losing 64 people, mostly children, in the Kemerovo fire. In the article below, Christoph B. Schiltz and Pavel Lokshin argue that, in the wake of such a disaster, Russians will be more likely to "dismiss the reaction of the US and Europe as an insensitive provocation."
In Russia, many expected the UK to apply a different type of sanction.
May's government could have frozen the considerable Russian assets parked in London real estate -- a move the exiled Russian opposition has been campaigning for over the last decade. Most political analysts, including Pentagon strategists, urged London to "start going after the money". But then again, British political elites are reliant on Russian billionaires for funding and investments.
So instead of tackling its own parasitic relationship with Russian money, the UK opted for the easy way out: expelling Russian diplomats. These measures will not make Putin any more docile. At best, they will create more tension and more bureaucratic difficulties for normal Russians (i.e. not millionaires) willing to work and collaborate with the West.
Details from the story:
- Many EU countries have followed the lead of the US and the UK and are sending out Russian diplomatic staff as a gesture of solidarity with the UK, where a former Russian spy Sergey Skripal was poisoned this month.
- Altogether, over a hundred Russian diplomats will be expulsed from the countries, with 60 from the US, and 23 from the UK, making it the worst diplomatic crisis since the Cold War
- Russia's answer is going to be equal measures: it has already closed down the British Council, a cultural organization that has worked in the country for 25 years.
- The news of mass expulsions came in the midst of a tragic fire in a Siberian shopping mall which killed over 60 people, many of them children.
- Currently, the West's rash actions are only going to help Putin in his isolationist rhetoric and sow discord among the European countries