In Russia and nearly two dozen Western countries, a record number of diplomats were told this week to pack their bags.
Three weeks ago, I listed the threatened British response to the poisoning of a former Russian spy under the heading “What We’re Ignoring,” because I doubted it would be substantive. I added a prediction that diplomats would be expelled.
Despite considerable media noise and some pushback from a couple of my smarter friends, I’m standing by that view. More than 20 countries, including the US, have expelled more than 150 Russian diplomats. On the one hand, that’s a lot of governments publicly in agreement that Russia is guilty of the attempted murder of a foreign national on foreign soil and then lying about it. Is that enough to change Russia’s future behavior?
Be skeptical. I don’t believe the Kremlin cares very much if it has to work with fewer spies for a while. You can also safely doubt that Britain’s refusal to send a member of the royal family to next year’s World Cup, held in Russia, will make much difference either.
Maybe there was no more effective response. That’s a subject worth debating. But this is just one more story about worsening Russian-Western relations. There will soon be more to move this one off the front pages.