The exchange of diplomatic slaps between Russia and the West has reached unprecedented levels since the Skripal poisoning in the UK in 2018. Russian diplomats were sent from Austria, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the US, Czechia, Bulgaria, and Poland, Indrė Naureckaitė wrote in lrytas.lt
A particularly huge diplomatic war broke out between Moscow and Prague, although until recently, the Czech Republic intended to buy the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, and Czech President Zeman used to be called one of the biggest supporters of Putin in the EU.
The Czech Republic has expelled 18 Russian diplomats, Moscow responded by declaring as many as 20 employees of the Czech Embassy unwelcome.
Prague then appealed to the EU and NATO partners to also expel Russian diplomats out of solidarity, even though this has been going on for some time without Czechs appealing. The Czech’s neighbour Slovakia was the first to respond to the request, followed by all three Baltic States.
A similar situation occurred in 2018 following the poisoning of Skripal in Salisbury when the UK expelled 23 Russian diplomats and asked allies to follow their example. Lithuania then contributed to this solidarity campaign by announcing three Russian diplomats unwelcome and, of course, receiving a mirror response from Moscow.
The similarity with the diplomatic war after the poisoning of Skripal is reinforced by the fact that the Czech Republic has announced that it is looking for the same two Russian agents who allegedly sprinkled Novichok poison in Salisbury.
But there are also differences from the events that occurred back in 2018. Today, Moscow is not being punished for the new espionage cases or other aggressive acts, but for an explosion at an ammunitions warehouse linked to Russian military intelligence back in 2014.
It is likely that the Czechs have gathered solid evidence, then this is a serious criminal act by Russia, but the question arises as to why Moscow was caught up in the punishment only seven years later.
Be that as it may, Prague has chosen to expel Russian diplomats because of a long-standing event and they are also being expelled in several other Western countries.
Response from the US is the most important in this regard. Washington has announced a full package of punishments against Moscow, expelling 10 Russian diplomats, banning US financial institutions from investing in Russian securities and imposing sanctions on 32 persons.
It is eye-catching that the events of which Russia is being accused – are also not so recent – referring to Moscow’s interference in the US presidential election in 2020 and the cyberattacks that followed.
Perhaps Washington has decided that the time has come to send Moscow a warning, and here, apparently, not the many specific Russian transgressions were important and instead the country’s recent aggressive policies, including the mobilisation of troops at Ukraine’s borders and the increasing provocations in Donbas.
In such geopolitical circumstances, Lithuania needs to decide what position would be most useful to take. Of course, it is impossible not to support the allies and to oppose their actions, but it is also important how it is done.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania has expressed its support for the new US sanctions on the same day they were announced by Washington. Our country was definitely among the leading supporters of the choir.
It will be some kind of plus in the eyes of the J. Biden administration, and Russia will face another minus. Of course, Lithuanian foreign policy should not chase any signs of favour, especially after Moscow – first of all, it is unsolid and does not bring international respect.
Lithuania has immediately expressed its support for the Czech Republic, the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Seimas even insisted on recognising Russia as a state that supports terrorism, and at the end of last week, the Minister of Foreign Affairs G. Landsbergis has announced that two Russian representatives, whose activities are incompatible with the diplomatic service, will be expelled from Vilnius.
Moscow replied that response actions would be taken.
Relations with Russia continue to heat up, although the countries that determine geopolitics seem to be trying to ease tensions a little.
For example, the president of Russia, V. Putin, has announced that he will be attending the US climate summit remotely, while Kyiv and Moscow and the Donbas separatists held an emergency meeting, announcing that progress had been made in reviving the ceasefire and suppressing the shootings, what was one of the most important sources of tension.
Despite all this, Russia has mobilised between 100 and 150 000 troops in Crimea and near Donbas on the pretext of military exercises while threatening to ban the entry of foreign warships into part of the Black Sea. This is undoubtedly a demonstration of dangerous force.
True, that at the end of the week, Moscow announced the completion of tasks and that Russian troops would be recalled from Ukraine’s borders.
Even the most aggressive Russian politicians seem to realise that their country is unable to wage war with the West with conventional weapons, but there are already incitements to scare the world with using nuclear weapons, including idiotic proposals to blow up a charge somewhere in the ocean, causing a small tsunami.
One way or another, it should not be assumed that Russia is ruled by people who have lost their minds – they will not be willing to get close to the brink of the nuclear war.
However, even the most pragmatic leaders of the great Western states appear to understand that greater heating of the atmosphere could lead to unpredictable consequences.