NATO Expels Russian Diplomats Following Spy Poisoning
Over 100 Russian envoys have been expelled from 25 countries in the last two days, as a sign of solidarity with the U.K. Earlier this month, former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia Skripal, were found slumped on a beach and remain in critical condition at Salisbury District Hospital after being exposed to a poisonous nerve agent in the United Kingdom. While Russia denies involvement, the incident launched a massive attempted-murder investigation by London’s Metropolitan police and increased tensions between the European Union and Russia.
Germany, France and Poland expelled four Russia diplomats each. Lithuania, and Czech Republic expelled three. Denmark, Italy and the Netherland expelled two. Estonia, Latvia, Croatia, Finland, Hungry, Sweden and Romania expelled one each. All 25 countries believe that Russia was behind the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter.
NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, stated that the move to reduce the permanent size of the Russian mission would be cut from 30 to 20 people, adding that the decision was “a clear and very strong message that there was a cost to Russia’s reckless actions.”
British Prime Minister, Theresa May, commented on the decision, stating that this was “the largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers in history.”
She continued, “I have found great solidarity from our friends and partners in the EU, North America, NATO and beyond over the past three weeks as we have confronted the aftermath of the Salisbury incident. And together we have sent a message that we will not tolerate Russia’s continued attempts to flout international law and undermine our values. If the Kremlin’s goal is to divide and intimidate the western alliance, then their efforts have spectacularly backfired.”
The Russian government responded to the expulsion, calling it “a provocative gesture” and that they will respond in kind. The potential tit-for-tat expulsions has increased tensions between the EU and Russia and has left the door open for additional measures.
Russian president, Vladimir Putin, is set to make the final decision, and the U.S. Russian embassy launched a poll on Twitter in a satirical tweet asking which U.S. consulate should be closed in Russia.
In response, the U.S. has ordered the expulsion of 60 Russia officials, a dozen of which are based in the United Nations, and told Moscow to shut down its consulate in Seattle, which would end Russia diplomatic representation on the west coast.
Canada and Australia have also joined with their allies in expelling Russian diplomatic staff from their countries.
White House Press Secretary, Raj Shah, told reporters that the U.S. expulsions were “part of a coordinated effort” and “[The United States] want[s] to work with Russia, but this type of action cannot be tolerated. The United States are responding to Russia’s actions. As I called it brazen and reckless.”
He emphasized the White House’s desire to work with the Russia government, adding, “We want to work with Russia. You know, the ball’s in their court with respect to how they want to respond.”