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Poisoning of Ex-Russian Spy Starts Diplomatic Controversy

Beatrice Ieronimo, Staff Writer

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As of last week, twenty-nine countries have expelled over one hundred Russian officials in response to the mysterious poisoning of Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. On March 4th, 2018, the two were found unresponsive on a public bench in Salisbury, England; through further investigation, the British police have gathered conclusive evidence relating the victims’ symptoms to a military-grade nerve agent specific to Russian laboratories. The police suspect that the two first came in contact with the poison at their front door. As of now, Yulia’s condition is slowly improving while her father’s situation appears much grimmer.

 

Accusations of such suspicious activities are nothing new to Russian authorities, as this attack resembles the infamous assassination of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006. After openly accusing his bosses of planning against a Russian oligarch, the defected Russian intelligence officer soon fell ill and died. Further investigation proved his consumption of tea poisoned with radionuclide polonium-210 was the cause of his death. Naturally, the conditions surrounding his death put Russian involvement in his poisoning up for questioning, much like in the Skripal case.

 

In addition, Russian relations with the West was marred by a series of political decisions threatening individual liberties. These decisions include Moscow’s involvement in Syrian and Ukrainian wars, the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, interference in a variety of elections (such as those of the United States), and the murder of Kremlin adversaries inside and outside of Russia. This is on top of cyber attacks and campaigns to spread false information that the West has deemed part of a mass Russian effort to corrupt and weaken liberal democracies. Such threats have decreased Western countries’ toleration of Russian misconduct.

 

Thus, after this most recent attack, a series of western countries and organizations were quick to retaliate. By ousting around one hundred and fifty representatives, (the most significant Russian diplomatic expulsion since the end of the Cold War), the West has put up a front against continued Russian criminality. Recently, British officials took even greater action by searching a Russian aircraft arriving in Heathrow airport, an act which Russians considered as a direct shot at their credibility. While such measures are acts of defiance on the Western end, they were soon easily matched by Russian action.

 

Suspecting these western behaviors as ploys for Washington and London’s “anti-Russian campaign,” the Kremlin mirrored western expulsion in their consulates, even closing the American Consulate in St. Petersburg. By shutting off a consulate more substantial and far more valuable to relations than the Russian Consulate closed in Seattle, Russia proved the point of reciprocal loss in diplomatic expulsion.

 

For now, the only significant direct impact of this controversy has been inconveniencing travellers seeking Russian visas. However, such conflict, if left to grow, may prove dangerous. Heightening already strained tensions between the West and Russia pushes the great powers closer to more significant political fights and potential military confrontation.

 

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