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Expulsion of Russian diplomats portends troubled times

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | March 27, 2018

The mass expulsion of Russian diplomats by some countries of the European Union and North America on Monday is an unprecedented and intriguing development. First, the US alone accounts for some two-thirds of the expulsion – 60 diplomats. Curiously, even Britain, which is apparently the aggrieved party in the Skripal affair, expelled less than half that number – 23. Broadly, however, this is an Anglo-American move with which a number of EU countries and Canada display solidarity.

Second, President Trump is apparently more loyal to Her Majesty in the Buckingham Palace than Prime Minister Theresa May. This gives an intriguing twist to the tale. Why is there such an excessive interest on the part of Washington, especially at a time when the fervor of the Anglo-American kinship has significantly dampened during the Trump era? (President Trump is yet to visit the UK.)

Is it a massive diversionary tactic by the White House the day after porn star Stormy Daniels took Trump’s pants off in her TV interview on ’60 Minutes’? Or, is this yet another attempt by Trump to flaunt that he isn’t ‘soft’ on Russia? Or, is it the Deep State in action – as the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle might well suggest? There are no easy answers.

Third, only less than half the 28 member countries of the EU have signaled support for the Anglo-American campaign over the spy incident. There is much reluctance or skepticism within the EU about what is going on. Surprisingly, though, Germany, which had voiced skepticism at an early stage, has now joined the pack. Which probably shows that there has been immense pressure from Washington and London.

Nonetheless, curiously, the EU countries by and large made only ‘token’ expulsions. As many as 7 EU countries simply moved on by expelling one Russian diplomat each. Having said that, the pressure campaign is continuing and the likelihood of more EU countries joining the expulsion cannot be ruled out. Austria has point-blank refused to join. (So has Turkey, which virtually rules out a NATO stance, which requires unanimous support from all member countries.)

What is truly extraordinary is that the circumstances surrounding the alleged poisoning of an MI6 double agent of Russian extraction are still shrouded in mystery. The British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn openly cautioned against rushed judgment in a piece in the Guardian. By the way, even PM May claims only that it is “highly likely” that there was Russian involvement (not excluding rogue elements.) Yet, a cardinal principle in Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence is that no one is deemed guilty unless proven guilty.

Indeed, a range of explanations is possible as to what really might have happened in Salisbury. Read an excellent analysis by the respected British scholar on Russia Richard Sakwa, Professor of Russian and European Politics at the University of Kent and Associate Fellow of Chatham House, titled THE SKRIPAL AFFAIR.

Even in America, there are voices of scepticism. An enterprising columnist drew up 30 questions that beg an answer. (See the column by Bob Slane featured on the website of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, titled 30 Questions That Journalists Should Be Asking About the Skripal Case.)

To my mind, this entire controversy snowballed into a litmus test of the Euro-Atlantic partnership – in particular, the US’ trans-Atlantic leadership – at a defining moment when Britain is giving up EU membership. This is one thing. But, more importantly, does the build-up portend something far more sinister than one would anticipate? One particular passage from Prof. Sakwa’s essay becomes a chilling reminder about what may be lying in the womb of time:

“The only question is whether the confrontation will dissipate, as it did over Agadir in 1911, or whether this is the Sarajevo slow-burning crisis that could explode into flame at some later point… Will it be another case of the sinking of the Maine in 1898, where the subsequent public hysteria provoked war against Spain only to be discovered later that the ship’s ammunition stores had accidentally exploded; or a Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964, which was also a false flag operation but provoked the escalation of the Vietnam War. The West may be ‘uniting’ against Russia, as The Times put it on 16 March, but to what purpose.”

March 27, 2018 - Posted by | Russophobia | , , , ,

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