Britain to expel Russian diplomats?

Eye spyThe British press is full of rumours that a number of Russian diplomats are soon to be expelled from Britain, following Russia’s formal refusal to extradite Andrei Lugovoi to face charges of murdering Alexander Litvinenko. 

This extract is from the Telegraph, but all the other major papers have covered the story in a similar vein:

[…] A former diplomat familiar with Russia said it was “entirely likely” that Britain could decide to expel a “handful” of middle- to low-ranking diplomats because other options are limited.

Britain no longer gives Russia direct aid, removing the possibility of slashing funding, while reducing co-operation in the business sphere would only hurt British investors. Britain is Russia’s largest foreign investor, with interests of more than £33 billion. A wave of mutual expulsions would crystallise what is already regarded as the worst crisis in Anglo-Russian relations since the Cold War.

I can’t really see how any of the options are particularly appealing to Gordon Brown’s new government – really they do little more than demonstrate Britain’s impotence when it comes to telling Russia what to do.  And, lets face it – whatever Britain does eventually decide to do, Russia will treat as a provocation, and respond in spades.

To be honest, I can’t really think of any sensible ways in which the British government can react to Russia’s refusal to extradite Lugovoi.  Has anyone else got any ideas?  I, and probably the British government, would be glad to hear them…

Update 16 July 2007: Sadly, the foreign office didn’t take my advice, and decided to expel four Russian diplomats anyway. 

You may also like...

31 Responses

  1. marc says:

    They could just forget it ever happened, they surely have bigger issues to deal with such as increasing numbers of home-grown terrorists and the like. Its maybe not the most compassionate suggestion for the parties involved in the case but in the bigger scheme of things its not that great. As the article points out Britain has £33 billion at stake and a lot to lose.
    I’m sure Britain has been involved in its fair share a dirty actions in the past and present and shouldn’t be looking to stir up trouble over this.

  2. £33 billion? That’s pocket change to an economy the size of Britain’s. Russia has far more to lose from alienating Britain than vice versa, because alienating Britain means alienating the United States and NATO and because Russia’s economy, per capita, is so pathetically puny and its population so sick and decimated.

    Just forget the intentional assassination of a dissident that could have killed dozens or thousands of innocent Britons and didn’t only by happenstance? Sounds like the worst sort of cowardice to me . . . either that or you are a KGB agent.

    Britain has a wealth of powerful options to use against Russia, and it’s rather naive to call the country “impotent.” Britain has many allies who can be coordinated to wage economic warfare against Russia. It could give Berezovsky citizenship and then make him a diplomat in Moscow, hence with immunity. It could openly support opposition political parties in Russia (so what if Russia does the same in England? who’d care?). It could lobby for massive defense increases by NATO, especially attacking Putin’s obvious paranoia over defensive missiles in Eastern Europe. And it could focus the energies of its wonderful press corps on doing even more exposure of Russian corruption and dictatorship.

    That’s just for starters.

  3. Andy says:

    Hey, LR, welcome back.

    To put things into context, £33 billion approximately £500 or $1,000 for every man, woman, and child in the United Kingdom.

    (Sorry – would say more, but I’m in a rush to head out).

  4. ANDY:

    Thanks dear.

    Gosh, I didn’t know you were so strapped for cash. Perhaps you need to get out and find a real job.

    Also, your logic is a bit faulty. Indeed, what you’ve said is close to propaganda. Each man, woman and child in Britain wouldn’t be asked to pay a single cent (or whatever it is you’ve got instead of cents) and doesn’t benefit in any significant way from Russian investment. Plenty of people in Briton spend far more than that annually on things like cigarettes and pornography and gambling. Let them spend it on something healthy like poking Russia in the eye. They’ll be far better off in the end.

    Moreover, the idea that Britain can’t replace that investment from some other source if necessary is simply silly. There’s plenty of fish in the sea, and the US alone could easily make up the difference if it wanted to, out of petty cash.

    On top of that, Russians get something for their money, don’t they? They’re not giving Britain the dole, are they? Russia’s economy, being far more pathetic than Britain, can bare such losses far less well.

    And, if you’ll check, I think you’ll find any number of Britons who think that the Russian presence is expensive at any price. Polonium is a rather annoying neighbor. $1,000 would seem rather cheap if you’d ingested some, I think you’ll agree.

    Even if the price were high, How much were Britons each willing to pay to rid themselves of the Nazis? Surely, more than $1,000, wasn’t it? And that’s to say nothing of all those lives. Was it silly to pay that price my dear?

    I think not, and most heroic Britons agree with me.

  5. GER O'BRIEN says:

    ”….and the US alone could easily make up the difference if it wanted to, out of petty cash.”

    You mean BORROWED petty cash? The US is in massive debt. Britain and Russia are not.

  6. The latest edition of eXile has a follow-up article on Lugovoi and Litvinenko:

    http://www.exile.ru

    Perhaps this Russo-Anglo dispute might make the US a comparatively more pleasant place for politically mainstream thinking Russians.

  7. From a very different vantagepoint from the recently linked eXile article is this piece from Edward Lucas:

    http://edwardlucas.blogspot.com/

    Of the two, the Lucas piece is the more politically accentuated. It has a McCarthyite twang to it with a generalized suggestion that many western based Russians involved with business, academic and diplomatic matters are linked to a sinister grand uniform design.

    No ******* way, as in a good many of these Russians clearly show diverse views in a very earnest enough way.

  8. KGB-Agent says:

    “The more sinister ones pretend to be cooks and drivers there.

    At the Aeroflot check-in back to Moscow they can meet their deep-cover colleagues: those pretending to be businessmen and students.”

    haha excellent, paranoia spreads across Britain, the Brits should not forget who they are, and who they are not anymore

  9. On the subject of Aeroflot, checkout this video I just received:

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=GfDAy0DERdw&mode=related&search

    All part of a sinister plan to subvert the west.

  10. KGB-Student says:

    I liked the Aeroflot picture, just imagine deep- covered russian Spies lining up at Aeroflot check in loathing to infiltrate the Albion, strange enough Lugovoi flew BA.

  11. English language mass media wise, Edward’s take pays more than the view going opposite of it. Is this reality indicative of:

    – a more accurate portrayal succeedng over a not as plausible one

    – what the public prefers

    – the biases of the establishment elites selecting what views get top billing

    – any combination of the highlighted suggestions

    Sensationalism does sell. The back to the future Soviets, and-or the just flat out historically evil Russians is an ongoing mantra. There’s Ann Applebaum (wife of Poland’s defense Minister) being quoted as saying that Russia should be firmly dealt with now, before it gets too strong. The quoted view of Applebaum’s serves as a confirmation that Russia has come back as a major enough power to be reckoned with. How her political kind choose to deal with this situation leaves something to be desired.

    There’s a growing western business sector interested in Russia as a market. For purely business reasons, this grouping is using its clout to challenge some of the questionable perceptions about Russia. Like others, they should come under scrutiny as well.

  12. marc says:

    In response to LR –

    I’d like to know what Russia has to lose more so than Britain?

    Surely with North Sea Oil in rapid decline we are increasingly dependant on outside sources for energy, cue Russia.

    I also fail to see what the Russians need us for. As the article says we no longer give them direct aid and as history has shown they don’t mind shunning the west and Nato.

    Likewise £33 billion may be ‘pocket change’ compared with Britain’s GDP of £1,160 billion, but I think you’ll find that companies such as BP and Shell that have invested that money will disagree with you.

    And as for the comparison with the Nazis, well thats just priceless.

  13. MARC:

    Thanks for confirming that relative to Britain’s giant GDP, the sum of £33 billion is pocket change. It’s a pity some others can’t deal with the facts a bit more honestly and fairly, as you have done. Russophile propaganda is a formidable foe.

    Russia is a nation without allies and, as I’ve said above, Britain has many. By attacking Britain, Russia is inducing Britain to call upon its allies to wage a new cold war against Russia, and they will do so. Britain is far better positioned to survive such a conflict than Russia, just as it was better positioned to survive the first cold war. The USSR was utterly destroyed by that conflict, Britain is still prospering.

    The British economy isn’t, and shouldn’t be, based on oil — but Russia’s is. Russia needs consumers of oil far more than consumers need Russia. Maybe British oil should read a bit about Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Russia’s policy of nationalizing assets and jailing rivals. If they did, they might realize that they can lose their assets (and their freedom) even if they are on the friendliest terms with Russia, and start thinking about alternatives so that the future of the British people will be secured.

    Russia is not a reliable partner. It just pulled unilaterally out of a major arms control accord. Wake up and smell the coffee! Cold War II has begun. Fight it, or lose it. Chamberlain learned how far you can get with appeasement and pipe dreams.

  14. Post Soviet Russia isn’t he USSR or Nazi Germany.

    I believe it was Disraeli (perhaps Lloyd George) who said, the Brits have interests and not allies.

    In the present day, Russia is far from being alone on a number of key foreign policy issues.

  15. ReluctantMuscovite says:

    I just noticed Andy wrote:

    “Hey, LR, welcome back.”

    That’s it for me. Bye.

  16. RM

    I respectfully disagree. It’s one thing if LR comes on in a personally tauting way with Andy showing a political and-or personal bias for that kind of a manner.

    In these recent exchanges, for whatever one might think of LR’s views, its statements are being directly replied to in a productive way. The “its” reflecting how some folks believe that LR is a more than one person operation.

    IMO, these exchanges serve to better underscore some of the prevailing inaccuracies which dominate some high profile venues.

  17. Aleks says:

    I thought LR was dead! Cliff Baines lives! More importantly, I’ve got to go unblock my shower.

  18. “Post Soviet Russia isn’t he USSR or Nazi Germany.”

    No, it’s not.

    Russia occupies, in the overall global ranks, a place roughly equivalent to that occupied by Brazil, an industrialized and technologically advanced middle-income country with a population in the range of 150 to 200M.

    Brazil’s a reasonably transparent democracy, though, and Russia is not. Perhaps more to the point, Brazilian hegemony in South America has always been decidedly implicit and South America has been generally an area of secondary interest to global strategists, but not so Russia and Eurasia.

  19. “Russia occupies, in the overall global ranks, a place roughly equivalent to that occupied by Brazil, an industrialized and technologically advanced middle-income country with a population in the range of 150 to 200M.”

    ****

    These points overlook a number of things that Russia has, which Brazil doesn’t.

    Among the referenced areas being in the military and scientific spheres. Russia has a mini kind of Silicon Valley, which I’m not sure that Brazil has.

    ————————————————–

    “Brazil’s a reasonably transparent democracy, though, and Russia is not.”

    ****

    You really think so?

  20. “Among the referenced areas being in the military and scientific spheres. Russia has a mini kind of Silicon Valley, which I’m not sure that Brazil has.”

    Brazil developed an informatics industry in the 1980s. I’m not sure what it’s standing is today.

    As for politics, Brazil does have competitive elections, as the contests between Cordoso and Lula in the 1990s demonstrate, as does the impeachment of Collor (sp?) back in 1992. Brazil has serious problems with corruption and inequality, but it’s more functional in many ways than Russia–consider how Brazil got its HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1990s, and kept it under control, at the same time that the Russia of Yeltsin and Putin let HIV become a pandemic in Russia. It took some serious and consistent failures of policy to have a Russian HIV epidemic twice as large (relative to population) as the Brazilian when Brazil’s HIV/AIDS pandemic began at least a decade before Russia’s.

  21. You raise some valid points.

    Of the two, does Brazil have less a degree of a wealth disparity between the very rich and poor? I sense that Russia might’ve more millionaires than Brazil. In comparison to Russia, I (nevertheless) also get the impression that Brazil has the greater overall socio-economic disparity.

    Greater political diversity doesn’t necessarily mean better government. Italy has had many governments, due to that country’s dissatisfaction with whoever runs it. America has a two party system which some describe as a one party system, sub-divided in two. In Russia, other political groupings besides United Russia play lead roles in different parts of that country.

    Like other places (US included), Russia’s healthcare can definitely improve for sure. I’ve heard several sources say that part of Russia’s healtcare problems have to do with the attitude many Russians take towards health.

  22. Karolus says:

    [This comment has been deleted, as the same comment is available here.

  23. Michael:

    “Of the two, does Brazil have less a degree of a wealth disparity between the very rich and poor? I sense that Russia might’ve more millionaires than Brazil. In comparison to Russia, I (nevertheless) also get the impression that Brazil has the greater overall socio-economic disparity.”

    The web sources I’ve googled suggest that Brazil has a higher Gini index than Russia, even after Russia’s transition in the 1990s.

    The UNDP Russia site claims that “HDI levels in Moscow are comparable with the Czech Republic and Malta, levels in Tyumen Region are comparable with Hungary and Poland, while St Petersburg and Tatarstan are comparable with Bulgaria, although Russia’s “second capital” is significantly behind the Baltic States. Russia’s weakest HDI regions – Ingushetia and Tyva – are comparable with Mongolia, Guatemala and Tajikistan.”

    Referencing Wikipedia, , Brazil seems to have more areas and more people living in poverty than Russia, especially in the Northeast region, but Brazil’s overall HDI of 0.792 in 2004 compares well to Russia’s HDI of 0.797 in that same year. Russia has seen higher GDP per capita growth than Brazil, mind, so the gap has widened since then.

    Regardless, I think the data supports my contention that Russia and Brazil are geopolitical entities of roughly equivalent heft.

    “Greater political diversity doesn’t necessarily mean better government. Italy has had many governments, due to that country’s dissatisfaction with whoever runs it. America has a two party system which some describe as a one party system, sub-divided in two. In Russia, other political groupings besides United Russia play lead roles in different parts of that country.”

    This is true, but America, Italy, and Brazil haven’t seen similar levels of overt state manipulation of politics in a while. Public policy is contested in those countries in a way that doesn’t seem to exist in Russia. This is a problem.

    “Like other places (US included), Russia’s healthcare can definitely improve for sure. I’ve heard several sources say that part of Russia’s healtcare problems have to do with the attitude many Russians take towards health.”

    It’s true that other countries’ public health systems could stand improvement, but Russia’s could stand much more improvement than most. The extent of HIV’s penetration of Russia’s population is truly horrifying and unparalleled anywhere in Europe outside of the former Soviet Union, surpassing even the levels found in the United States and the larger countries of Latin America. HIV is of particualr importance as a barometer, since the epidemic’s effect is concentrated overwhelmingly among young populations of working age. Russia is already suffering a major shortfall in its young population. How much worse off will it be with a pendemic further reduce this vital segment?

  24. Thanks for the informative reply Randy.

  25. Tim Newman says:

    The extent of HIV’s penetration of Russia’s population is truly horrifying and unparalleled anywhere in Europe outside of the former Soviet Union…

    This is very true. I read somewhere that the US donates far more money to Russia to combat this problem than Russia spends on solving the problem itself. Yet HIV/AIDS as a subject is barely mentioned in Russian society. I guess it’s easier to celebrate Putin’s grandstanding speeches and Sochi’s olympic win.

  26. Let’s see some backup to that claim of America giving more money to Russia on AIDS related matter than what Russia spends on dealing with that matter.

    The rest of that commentary is typical of the snide anti-Russian mind-set to be found among some non-Russians, who purport not to be anti-Russian.

  27. Let’s see some backup on that funding claim.

    The rest of the commentary is oh so typical of snide anti-Russian sentiment purporting not to be anti-Russian.

  28. A system flaw regarding the last two posted comments.

  29. Among numerous individuals, here’s someone who thinks it was good to expel the Russian diplomats:

    http://www.eurasianhome.org/xml/t/opinion.xml?lang=en&nic=opinion&pid=797

    Regarding the other comments made in that piece, it can be quite fascinating to read what someone from another nationality says about another one.

  1. July 21, 2007

    […] confident” Russia surprisingly expels British diplomats? Andres Kramer leaves out the detail that Britain expelled four Russian diplomats first. Although, Russia’s response may be criticized as tit-for-tat, it can not be called […]