Senior Lecturer in European Politics in the University of Surrey Dr. Theofanis Exadaktylos told Sputnik his view on what’s behind the diverse reaction to the Skripal case and the Anglo-Russian friction across Europe.
Sputnik: European countries and the US have announced the expulsion of Russian diplomats in solidarity with Britain over the Skripal poisoning scandal. Why, in your opinion, is Italy on this list, regarding its previously neutral position on the issue?
Dr. Theofanis Exadaktylos: This is indeed an interesting story: Italy was the slowest country to respond to the scandal — but in a change of heart it expressed its solidarity with the UK following the majority of EU leaders. This is not completely surprising given the fluidity in Italy’s political landscape. The two leading parties after the election are openly pro-Russian (although for different reasons) so the outgoing prime minister (Gentiloni) is trying to keep foreign policy and EU direction to a path that may not be easily altered by a new government with the new winners of the election.
Sputnik: No evidence of Russia’s involvement in the poisoning of the Skripals has been provided by the UK to Russia. Instead, London’s rhetoric is becoming even tougher each day and other countries have already joined in. Do you think it is because they all have their own interests in escalating the scandal?
Dr. Theofanis Exadaktylos: I am not entirely sure about this. There have been previous occasions when there was Russian interference on UK soil and therefore the UK has been connecting this to previous incidents. At the same time, there is also internal politics, with the Conservatives accusing the Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, of colluding with Russia in his early political career. However, the UK is also trying to use the EU as a last attempt to take advantage of collective pressure given the fact that the UK is set to depart the EU in the near future and therefore going outside the common foreign and security policy structures.
Behind the Diplomatic Row
20 European countries as well as the UK’s NATO allies from overseas, such as the United States, Canada, and Australia, answered the British urge and decided to expel more than 100 Russian diplomats. This has become the response to Moscow for alleged involvement in the nerve agent attack on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK city of Salisbury, which it has strongly rejected. Moscow offered to help in the investigation, but the request for samples of the chemical substance used to poison Skripal was denied.
Although some EU states, including Slovenia, Slovakia, Austria, didn’t join the row and preferred to wait until the probe is over, other countries, which have previously taken a cautious position, went all the way with the UK.
The views and opinions expressed by Dr. Theofanis Exadaktylos are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.