The latest developments in the relations between the West and Russia resemble a fuss displayed by nervous shoppers lining up at a kerosene store. Some shoppers are on the verge of driving a salesclerk out of the store to lay their hands on the merchandise, others criticize him for setting the prices so high. The West is trying to impose the standards of “true” democracy on Moscow in order to get hold of the Russian oil. The ongoing scandal over Lugovoi, Berezovsky and Litvinenko is one of the symptoms of the conflict.
“Four personnel of the British Embassy in Moscow have been declared personae non gratae. A formal note was handed to the British ambassador to Russia,” said Mikhail Kamynin, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, on Thursday.
Moscow had promised to announce details of its response to the UK’s expulsion of Russian diplomats within 48 hours. It is possible that a murky story about an alleged attempt to assassinate the Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky in London may have prompted the Russian authorities to react faster than expected. It would have been counterproductive to sit on the fence any longer – procrastination could have caused the West to interpret it as a sign of confusion, or consideration (at the least) the Kremlin was showing after yet another round of hysteria of the self-exiled tycoon was made public.
The situation became much clearer on Thursday. As it turned out, Scotland Yard had no grounds whatsoever to substantiate a charge against a Russian citizen (identity still withheld) who was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder Berezovsky. The man did nothing wrong. He did not hurt anyone. Contrary to a report published by The Sun, he did not buy a huge gun.
The “hit man” was simply thrown out of the country by the British immigration officials who also slapped a 10-year ban on his entry to the United Kingdom just in case. The move clearly demonstrated the complete inability of the British immigration authorities to act within the spirit of the law. Taking into account that Berezovsky has a knack for scheming and swindling people out of their money, we might as well assume that he played another nasty trick to get rid of his creditor.
Let us get back to the subject of the crisis between London and Moscow. The new British government seems to be fully confident of its own impeccability. The Kremlin had not yet announced its response to the UK’s expulsion of the four Russian diplomats when the Brown Cabinet labeled any response of the Russian Federation as “unjustified.” What a perfect display of imperil haughtiness coupled with a complete disregard of the laws of another country, not to mention the international law. As of today, the Russian law enforcement agencies have no evidence which indicates the involvement of Andrei Lugovoi in the poisoning murder of Alexander Litvinenko. On the other hand, there is another kind of evidence provided by Litvinenko’s widow. Shortly before his death, Litvinenko managed to tell his wife the name of his assassin, and she reportedly revealed it in her testimony. Why is this information being ignored?
Russia ’s response does not exactly “mirror” the UK’s decision to expel four Russian diplomats. Aside from the highly predicted expulsion of Russian diplomatic personnel, Britain also opted to create visa troubles for Russian officials. Consequently, the Russian Foreign Ministry advised the British Ambassador to Russia, Sir Tony Brenton, of Russia’s decision to suspend cooperation between Russia and Britain in the fight against international terrorism. The demarche of the Russian government can have a serious impact on the United Kingdom.
As regards the British Islands, the phenomenon of terrorism has become largely associated with an Islamist threat following the success of the peace process in Northern Ireland. All in all, today’s terrorist threat for the British is coming from the third-world countries, which have never been parts of the former British Empire; they are not the member states of the Commonwealth of Nations either. In terms of geography, Russia is much closer to the above countries. Besides, Russia got some firsthand knowledge of the Wahhabis’ creeping invasion during the armed conflict in the North Caucasus. From now onward, Britain’s intelligence and counterintelligence agencies will have to do without consultations with their Russian counterparts. MI6 and MI5 are unlikely to benefit from the situation. Russia knows its enemy’s face, whereas Britain will have to fight against the ghosts.
The British press will have to change the accent of the publications following the Kremlin’s response announce on Thursday. The non-tabloid newspapers have already started looking for the signs of restraint in Moscow’s demeanor. The papers were also putting special emphasis on European solidarity. However, the attempts of the British media seem to be related to wishful thinking. Despite the comment of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who advised Moscow to respect London’s intentions to prosecute Lugovoi on the British soil, the White House is not overly enthusiastic in pledging support for the Brown Cabinet. Why on earth should they support their half-baked friends who are ready to pack it all in and abandon the hairy spots in the Middle East?
Does it mean that we witness history repeating? Is the Cold War staging its comeback? Nothing of the kind, as far as I am concerned. One cannot step into the same river twice. We live at a time when different dominant factors i.e. the valves of oil and gas pipelines stretching from the East to the West are playing a lead part in the game. The valves turned out to be a much effective deterrent than the ballistic missiles with thermonuclear warheads. Moscow has found an asymmetric response to the monopolar world, which split into the centers of power once again. It is really hard to compare or assess them because the traditional scale of dominance (usually measured in TNT equivalent) is no longer relevant to a new reality.
If we separate the husk from the grain, we will see that the West’s indignation over Russia resembles a long line of shoppers near a kerosene store. The shoppers are extremely nervous because the store is rumored to be low on stock. Some shoppers blame the salesclerk for setting the price so high. Others are angry at some cross-eyed intruders who are trying to cut in the line. And some shoppers are ready and willing to beat the wits out of the salesclerk so that they can lay their hands on the merchandise. The issue of imposing the standards of “true” democracy on Russia is the issue of control the West is trying to take over Russia’s hydrocarbons; it is as simple as that. Polonium is just a side dish.
Translated by Guerman Grachev