The diplomatic scandal between Russia and NATO continues. Russia will expel employees of NATO’s Information Bureau in return to the expulsion of Russian diplomats from Brussels. As it turns out, the scandal began after an Estonian official had been caught delivering secret information to Russia. It is a far-fetched reason: NATO simply does not want to answer unpleasant questions from Russia.
Two officers of the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to NATO in Brussels were deprived of their accreditation last week. The 63-year-old chairman of the political section, Viktor Kochukov and 24-year-old Attache Vasily Chizhov will have to leave Belgium after the information about their expulsion was officially confirmed on May 5.
NATO must officially notify the Belgian authorities about the withdrawal of accreditation from the above-mentioned two diplomats. The Belgian Foreign Ministry will then declare them personas non grata.
The news about the sanctions against the Russian diplomats was first published in The Financial Times. Kochukov and Chizhov, the newspaper wrote, were suspected of conducting activities that were not compatible with diplomatic activities. The Russians would be expelled from Belgium in connection with a spy scandal, in which a high-ranking Estonian official, Herman Simm, was involved. The official shared NATO’s secret data with Russia and was sentenced to 12 years in prison in his home land for those activities. NATO’s administration confirmed the information on May 5.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry reacted sharply. “There was a gross provocation made against the employees of the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to NATO, who were told to leave Brussels under a vain pretext and without clear explanations,” a statement from the ministry said.
“Viktor Kochukov is a very experienced diplomat. Everyone at NATO knows him. Vasily Chizhov is a new face – he has recently graduated from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. When I heard NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer saying that they would be expelled over Simm’s case, I thought at first that it was a joke,” Russia’s Ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin said.
Canadian Ambassador Ralph Lysyshyn was summoned to appear at Russia’s Foreign Ministry on May 6. The ambassador was told that Russia had been forced to revoke the diplomatic accreditation from two Canadian citizens - the director of the NATO Information Bureau in Moscow, Isabelle Francois, and her deputy.
The scandal with the participation of Herman Simm, an official from Estonia, broke out in the fall of 2008. The official, who was in charge of Estonia’s relations with the alliance, was detained on September 21, 2008. He was suspected of delivering secret information to a foreign state (Russia). Spokespeople for the Estonian government soon said that Simm had been cooperating with Russia’s External Intelligence since 1995. He chaired the department for the protection of state secrets of Estonia’s Defense Ministry from 2001 to 2006. Simm supposedly delivered about 3,000 secret documents to Russia during 13 years.
The Estonian official has become NATO’s dummy. The alliance considered that it would be better to make a scandal and expell Russian diplomats from Brussels rather than explain its actions to Russia. Why does NATO need to proceed with its eastward expansion if it wants to conduct a dialogue with Russia ? What interests do foreign navies have in the Black Sea? What is going to happen with the missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic?
NATO’s actions can be described as aggressive absurdity, a gush of anger, as if the alliance realizes that it is paralytic and powerless.