The smoothly coordinated and broad effort that led to the biggest collective expulsion of Russian diplomats in history was likely premeditated, the Russian ambassador to the US has said. The Salisbury incident was just a trigger.
Russia’s ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, has his doubts about Washington’s justification behind the expulsion of dozens of the Russian diplomatic staff.
The US alone accounted for over half of all the diplomats that have been forced to leave for Russia. In addition, Washington closed the Russian Consulate in Seattle, citing its proximity to a US naval base and Boeing facilities.
Pointing out that such an explanation leaves no room for the Skripals, Antonov argued that the decision was waiting for a convenient pretext to materialize.
“The scale of inflicted damage and the preceding information campaign speak of the fact that it had been planned beforehand – simply postponed for the right moment,” Antonov told media on Tuesday.
The expulsions coincided with the mall fire tragedy in Russia’s Kemerovo, which claimed the lives of at least 64 people, many of them children. Antonov says Washington showed “emotional deafness, indifference and callousness” in adding insult to injury by coming out with reprisals on that day, the diplomat said.
“Well, gloat all you want. Especially when ordinary Americans share our grief and send their condolences. Thank you, friends,” Antonov said. While the timing of Washington’s decision was at the very least off-beat, the ambassador said Russia will not let itself be carried away by emotion when preparing a response.
“Truth will always prevail. We shall not be provoked into an emotional outburst. But there will be a response,” he vowed.
While Washington claims the expelled diplomats were all covert intelligence operatives posing a danger to US national security, according to Antonov, they were actually in charge of the fields in which the US and Russia still occasionally find common ground.
“The people who are being expelled were in charge for those few areas, which barely keep our mutually beneficial cooperation afloat: space, science, trade, culture and archival searches for POW and MIA. Restoration of relations and search for points of contact have been set back,” Antonov lamented.
Speaking of the inherent causes of the UK’s and the US’s growing alienation from Moscow, Antonov suggested that the “Russian threat” is needed to distract people from pressing issues at home.
“Our opponents hate to see a strong and powerful Russia, which has recently demonstrated its capabilities,” he stressed, adding that the internal problems of countries will not slip away with more Russia-bashing.
Early hopes that the Trump administration might opt out of the hostile policy conducted by the Obama administration have been quashed, as Trump’s White House has failed to deliver on his own call for cooperation.
“Words of readiness to cooperate have gone completely separate ways with actual actions. Despite the promises, the current Administration takes the course of its predecessor,” the diplomat said.