Earlier reports made it evident that some sort of collective action was being planned in the West, but comparatively few could have imagined that it would lead to the largest-ever expulsion of foreign diplomats in American history, let alone during what is formally regarded as "peacetime". Even more insultingly, this was executed on the unproven pretext that Russia allegedly carried out a chemical weapons attack in the UK, after which its esteemed diplomats were accused of being "spies" and unceremoniously kicked out of their host countries.
As Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova noted, this was especially painful for Russians because it came right after the tragedy in Kemerevo while the entire country was still in mourning.
Although taken aback by this sudden asymmetrical aggression against their nation, the Russians have released statements showing that they won't overreact and will retain their composure, promising only to respond reciprocally to each and every provocation. It's obvious that the West is baiting Russia into going on the offensive and/or reacting disproportionately so that whatever it does could then be decontextualized and weaponized into a misleading narrative for "justifying" further anti-Russian policies, but Moscow has remained calm for now and is exercising the utmost caution in formulating its response. That being the case, it may still not be enough to stop the West from carrying out the remainder of whatever preplanned anti-Russian policies are already in the pipeline.
Speculation has abounded that the next phase of this asymmetrical offensive might see more multilateral sanctions enacted against Russia, whether targeting the nation as a whole, its companies, and/or its private citizens. There's really no telling how low the West will go now that a new nadir has been reached in bilateral relations with Moscow, and the tit-for-tat between both sides can only continue for so long until all options are eventually exhausted, after which this diplomatic game might begin taking on more dangerous dimensions that could easily spiral out of control if cooler heads don't prevail.
Vladimir Golstein, Associate Professor of Slavic Studies at Brown University and frequent commentator on current affairs, and Joe Quinn, senior editor and political analyst at Sott.net commented on the issue.
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