Expulsion of Russian diplomats spreads throughout the Western world
There has been a new round of expulsions in 20 Western countries following the Skripal poisoning in the United Kingdom, including: 60 Russian officials in the United States; four in Germany, France, Canada, and Poland; three in Lithuania and Czech Republic; two in Italy, Australia, Netherlands, and Denmark; and one in Latvia, Croatia, Finland, Hungary, Sweden, Romania, and Estonia. In addition, NATO has expelled seven staff from its Russian mission and Ukraine expelled 13 Russian diplomats.
Some of the expulsions were expected, such as those in the United Kingdom, Baltics, Ukraine, and France, and some came as a surprise such as the U.S. decision to expel 60 officials given President Trump’s reluctance to publically criticize Vladimir Putin. The unified response is less down to the UK’s enduring diplomatic relevance, and likely more to do with the nature of the attack itself: a brazen use of banned chemical weapons that not only put the public at risk, but also targeted an innocent in Yulia Skripal, who along with her father may never recover from the poisoning.
Assuming the Skripal assassination clearance goes all the way up to Vladimir Putin, it’s definitely a miscalculation on his part, albeit a somewhat understandable one given the Trump presidency’s silence on Russia and widening rifts on Russia policy within the EU. However, it remains to be seen whether this wave of Western solidarity will carry over into the next diplomatic battle when the EU’s Russia sanctions come up for renewal in July.