Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 27.03.2018
Russia is shelling Donbas. Russia held an illegal ‘election’ in Crimea. Russia is bombing hospitals in Syria. Russia attacked people with a nerve agent in Salisbury, England. Russia launched a gas war against Ukraine and the EU. All this Russia has done and is doing just in March 2018 alone. They are all aspects of Russia’s global war of aggression against the West.
In response to one of these attacks – the one against the United Kingdom – Western democracies expelled some Russian spies who were operating under cover as diplomats. Prime Minister Theresa May said that Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal may never fully recover from being poisoned by a Russian nerve agent.
Expelling spies-as-diplomats is a mild measure, but the demonstration of unity will come as a shock to the Putin regime. Russia has come to rely on appeasement as the standard response from the West since Russia invaded Georgia almost 10 years ago and since Russia invaded Ukraine four years ago. The mass of co-ordinated spy expulsions also promises more and sterner measures to come to counter Russian aggression.
The State Department of the United States wrote: “On March 4, Russia used a military-grade nerve agent to attempt to murder a British citizen and his daughter in Salisbury. This attack on our Ally the United Kingdom put countless innocent lives at risk and resulted in serious injury to three people, including a police officer.” The US then announced it was expelling 60 Russian officials serving at diplomatic missions to the US and to the United Nations, and requiring the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle.
Ukraine is proving to be Great Britain’s most heroic ally. Ukraine’s foreign minister, Pavlo Klimkin, wrote on Twitter: “We have decided to expel 13 Russian diplomats from Ukraine. We have been preparing for this for some time, but have decided to act now in co-ordination with our friends and partners in the democratic transatlantic community of which we are a part.” Ukraine is taking the greatest risk by acting so firmly to defend the UK. Russia is invading Ukraine and temporarily occupies Crimea and part of Donbas. Russian shelling is getting bad, and could get much worse in retaliation for Ukraine kicking out 13 Russian spies. Russia is committing grave violations of human rights against the Ukrainian hostages it is holding, and if Russia does tit-for-tat expulsions the Ukrainians languishing in Putin’s dungeons may be denied the minimal consular assistance they get right now. Ukraine has the most to lose by standing by its friends and partners in the democratic transatlantic community – and Ukraine has not even taken its rightful place as a member of the EU and of NATO yet!
European Union countries expelled the following numbers of Russian spies masquerading as diplomats: France: 4; Germany: 4; Poland: 4; Czechia: 3; Lithuania: 3; Denmark: 2; the Netherlands: 2; Italy: 2; Spain: 2; Estonia: 1; Croatia: 1; Finland: 1; Hungary: 1; Latvia: 1; Romania: 1; Sweden: 1. Other European countries were Albania, (expelling two Russian spies), Norway (expelling one spy), and Macedonia (expelling one spy).
Canada expelled four spies, accusing them of abuseing “their diplomatic status to undermine Canada’s security or interfere in our democracy.” Canada turned down the application of three Russians to be posted as diplomats, and indicated Russia will not be allowed to expand its ‘diplomatic’ presence in Canada as it had planned.
Australia expelled two “undeclared intelligence officers.”
Where there are breaks in the solidarity of Western democracies there can be seen the insidious work of Russia’s “hybrid war” over many, many years. There’s no Greek solidarity with the EU on Russian spy expulsions. Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Slovakia and Slovenia also said and did nothing about Russian aggression on March 26.
Bulgaria, currently in the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, has been politically corrupted by Russia and will do nothing to support EU and NATO ally Britain.
Austria has also been politically corrupted by invader-of-Europe Russia. The far right Freedom Party, led by Heinz-Christian Strache, is in partnership with Putin’s United Russia party. The Freedom Party has called for an end to sanctions against Russian individuals and entities, imposed after Russia invaded Ukraine on 20 February 2014 – this lifting of sanctions is supposed to occur without requiring Russia to de-occupy Crimea or Donbas. Austria stands against its European neighbours, and refuses to expel Russian spies from Vienna and thereby support Britain.
Portugal also explicitly spoils EU solidarity. Both the Portuguese and Austrian governments give out the Kremlin bromides about “dialogue” with Russia and “building bridges” as excuses for a policy of appeasing Russian aggression.
Austria or Slovakia or Bulgaria are minor prizes for the Russian regime of state terror. Western democracies, led by the United Kingdom, the United States, and Ukraine, led the defence against Russian aggression on March 26. But much more needs to be done. President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, wrote on Twitter: “Additional measures including further expulsions are not excluded in coming days, weeks.”
What can these additional measures be? Ukraine has shown the way. After Russia conducted an illegal presidential ‘election’ on the territory of Ukraine, in temporarily-occupied Crimea, Ukraine presented a list of 140 individuals to European Union foreign ministers who were the organizers of the bogus vote. These 140 individuals constitute a grave threat to international peace and security for what they have done. They are as deserving of suffering sanctions and travel bans and asset freezes, every bit as much as the original Russian war criminals who were sanctioned in 2014 when Russia began its invasion of Europe in Ukraine.
Russia is attacking Ukraine right now. To paraphrase the language of the US State Department communique, Russia is using military weapons to kill and injure Ukrainian citizens. Over 10,000 have died because Russia is invading Europe in Crimea and Donbas. This is worthy of defensive measures by Western democracies equal to or exceeding those applied after Russia’s attack in the United Kingdom. Russian aggression must be fought everywhere, in all its manifestations, if Western civilization is to survive this existential challenge.