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Russia: : Vladimir Putin′s diplomatic catastrophe - OP-ED

"I don't believe it!" This was what Konstantin Stanislavsky, the father of modern Russian theater, told actors when he was not satisfied with their performance. The United Kingdom and its two dozen allies around the world spoke on March 26 as a collective Stanislavsky.

"You are lying!" This is the message behind an unprecedented expulsion of Russian diplomats by countries of the European Union, the United States, Canada and Australia. This demarche will now be included in all textbooks on the history of international relations. Even Saddam Hussein and the Kim dynasty in North Korea were spared such public humiliation. This is a serious political and diplomatic victory for British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Two elements of this drama drew my attention. Tiny Iceland once challenged the mighty Soviet Union when it was the first to recognize the restoration of Lithuania's independence in 1990.

On Monday, Reykjavik announced a political and diplomatic boycott of Moscow, although Iceland is not a member of the EU and has no special relationship with Britain, unlike, say, Canada, Australia and the United States. Secondly, the Kremlin's "best friend," Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, decided to expel one Russian diplomat. The EU-bashing populist leader, known for his good relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, showed where his real priorities lie.

And this may not be the end of the affair. European Council President Donald Tusk said that EU member countries could take additional steps. That is, those who have not yet expelled Russian diplomatic personnel, like Slovakia or Portugal, can still do so. Experts of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons are analyzing the substance that was used to poison former British spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. If they conclude that the substance was of Russian origin this could spur more expulsions. Tokyo is also biding its time. The Japanese foreign ministry says it is monitoring the situation closely but avoids answering the question whether Washington's main Asian ally would support the British and American position.

In a normal democracy, such a large-scale and public diplomatic disaster would have led to the resignation of top brass at the foreign ministry and special services as well as immediate parliamentary inquiry. It would have also greatly undermined the standing of the executive.

But Russia is not a democracy. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday defiantly went to play football with veterans of FC Spartak. The Russian embassy in Washington responded to the expulsion of 60 Russian operatives from the US with a Twitter joke. It asked its followers to choose online which of the three US consulates in Russia Moscow should close in response to the shutdown of the Russian consulate in Seattle.

Read more: Opinion: Vladimir Putin′s diplomatic catastrophe | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 27.03.2018

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