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UK and EU leaders promote Russophobia

Commentary by Fabian Van Onzin |
March 28, 2018
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Glasgow, Scotland - The British government led by Teresa May and the Tories (the Conservative Party) has been engaged in a diplomatic war with Russia for the last few weeks. On March 4, Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a chemical nerve agent, resulting in their hospitalization. Skirpal was formerly an intelligence officer for the Russian government, but had betrayed his country when he joined the British intelligence service. Since the incident, the British government has claimed that Russia was behind the poisoning even though no evidence has been found to support this claim.

On March 14, Teresa May expelled 23 Russian diplomats and encouraged allies in the EU and the U.S. to do the same in their countries. She claimed the Russian diplomats are part of Russia's espionage network and their expulsion is a way to weaken Russian intelligence. In addition to this, May has frozen Russian state assets in the UK, suspended high-level Russia-UK contact, and declared that no royal family member will attend the FIFA world cup in Russia this summer. One of the few critics in British parliament was Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who was denounced as a 'Russian stooge' for criticizing May's harsh response.

President Donald Trump has sided with the British government and ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats from the U.S. The U.S. has accepted the British judgement that Russia was behind the poisoning without any questions asked. Leaders of the European Union have also sided with Britain with a statement of solidarity and have expelled a total of 33 Russian diplomats from 16 EU countries.

The Russian government has denied the accusations and condemned the poisoning of Skirpal. President Vladimir Putin called the incident 'a tragedy' and denied that Russia would ever do such a thing. Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov demanded a sample of the chemical nerve agent so that the Russian government could conduct their own investigation; the British government refused. In response to Britain's hostile actions, the Russian government has expelled 23 British diplomats from Russia and closed the British consulate in Saint Petersburg.

Although such diplomatic hostility against Russia is not new, we have not seen this level of antagonism since the Soviet era. It is difficult to say what is behind the UK's hostile acts against Russia, but there are a few possibilities. First, during the war in Syria waged by the United States and NATO, Russia has defended the Syrian government. Russia has provided military aid to Assad and defended the right of the Syrian people to defend themselves. The diplomatic war against Russia may be a reflection of the real war against Syria that Britain is participating in.

Another reason may be related to Russia's economic activities in Europe. Russia is in the process of building a pipeline that would ship cheap Russian oil to Germany and will pass through a number of EU member states. This would put Russia in a stronger economic position in the oil market, weakening British, European and U.S. business interests. The diplomatic hostility against Russia is very likely connected to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which many EU member states, including Britain, have been opposed to.

Regardless of what one thinks of Russia, it is important not to buy into the Russophobia of the British, European, and U.S. politicians. The measures taken by the British government against Russia are hawkish and should not be supported by anyone who supports peace.

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