Russia and the United Kingdom: A New Cold War?

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. The words spoken by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt feel so eerily apt for any Cold War scenario. There is indeed nothing worse than living in a state of constant fear, other than living a life where you can’t help but be afraid of things which scare you the most, but doesn’t scare others.  This sentiment perfectly encapsulates the criteria for the creation of a Cold War.

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The Cold War people grew so accustomed to hearing about was that which took place for almost half a century, between the United States and the Soviet Union, where both world powers lived in fear of going to war with one another rather than actually engaging in military action. This historical period ranged approximately from the end of the Second World War in 1945 up until when the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991. Russia and the United States would then experience a lengthily period of tranquillity and cooperation, but another form of an adversarial relationship would emerge, one which feels only too familiar.

One can effectively say that a second Cold War has been brewing between the United States and Russia over the past few years, but the relationship of that between Russia and the United Kingdom has been receiving significant attention as of late in light of the chemical attack in Salisbury, England on 4 March 2018. This attack consisted of the poisoning of former Russian intelligence officer and British double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal, with the use of a Novichok nerve agent. The third victim of the attack was police officer Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, who has since then recovered. Yulia Skripal has been reported to be conscious and talking, while her father however is still in critical condition and in intensive care. Given that the attack was committed on British soil and Sergei Skripal is a British citizen, Prime Minister Theresa May has vowed to take action and bring the perpetrators to justice, with her and other officials in the British government directly putting the blame of the attack on Russia itself. The fact that the nerve agent used is exclusively produced in Russia points even more towards this allegation, but there have been calls, including one from British Labour Party and Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, for an independent investigation to conclude who was responsible for the attack and establish its true motivations.

The attack sparked a barrage of criticism towards Russia, with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson going as far in directly calling out Russian President Vladimir Putin for being responsible for the attack. In retaliation for the attack, the UK expelled 23 Russian diplomats, for which Russia expelled 23 British diplomats as a response. The United States has also expelled 60 Russia diplomats, while 23 countries, with these being EU and NATO member states, and have also taken measures to expel Russian diplomats. Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Slovenia, Portugal, the EU itself and even Malta have not expelled any Russian diplomats but have all recalled their respective ambassadors to Russia.  Russia has now expelled 59 diplomats from 23 countries, only escalating the row even further. The attack also cast a negative shadow over the Russian presidential election and the FIFA World Cup to be hosted in Russia this year.

As one can evidently see, the political and diplomatic reaction generated in the aftermath of the incident in Salisbury has certainly been one of confrontation and animosity between Russia and the Western world. This incident has not only sparked more hostility towards Russia but is also the embodiment of the sentiment of Russophobia which has been developing in unison to coincide with any event which is remotely connected to Russia or is somewhat related to Russia. It is fair and proper to assume that Russia should be held accountable for any un-lawful and controversial act that it may commit, it would be completely different however to accuse Russia of committing grievous actions with no sufficient evidence as is still the case with regards to the incident in Salisbury.  While Russia must be held to the same standard as any other leading nation in the international community, other nations must not rule out cooperation with Russia in order to preserve peace and stability .

Written by: Jacob Callus

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