It is akin to a Cold War between Russia and the West triggered by the use of novichok, a nerve agent of Russian origin. It was reportedly used on an ex Russian double agent in Britain and has led to the expulsion of Russian diplomats from different countries. Russia has retaliated on similar lines, and the latest is its decision to expel 60 US diplomats and close down the US consulate in St. Petersburg.

Washington Post reports that according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the action for the expulsion of US diplomats and closure of the consulate is the result of the expulsion of Russian diplomats from the United States.

Tit for tat

As a fallout of the Novichok incident, the United States had expelled 60 Russian diplomats and closed the Russian consulate in Seattle. This setup was considered to be a security risk because it was located near a major U.S. nuclear submarine base. There are also possibilities of seizing Russian assets in the US.

Russia has, on its part, declared 60 American diplomats as persona non grata. Most of them are from the Moscow embassy. Russia has also decided to close down the US consulate in St. Petersburg but not the one in Vladivostok. The decisions were conveyed to the U.S. Ambassador by Russia’s Foreign Ministry.

International implications

It all dated back to the beginning of March when a Russian double agent and his daughter suffered an attack of Novichok in the British town of Salisbury.

This led to the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats by British Prime Minister Theresa May because Russia was unable to explain how the nerve agent landed up in Britain. Incidentally, Novichok is a Soviet-designed and Russian-produced product.

The action by Britain led 10 of its allies, including the United States, to follow suit.

Right now, 27 countries have joined the list, and the cumulative number of expulsions is more than 150.

Russia’s decision to close the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg but not the one in Vladivostok appears to be strange. The U.S. decided to close the Russian consulate in Seattle because it was near a major nuclear submarine base.

By the same logic, Russia should have closed down the Vladivostok consulate which is near the headquarters of Russia’s Pacific Fleet. It seems the decision was based on the results of a Twitter poll.

Anyway, the time limit is given to the U.S. to close down its consulate in St. Petersburg is two days while that for the diplomats to leave Russia is one week.