The 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.