Brussels (Brussels Morning) Baltic countries have followed the example of a number of EU and NATO members in expelling Russian diplomats they have accused of spying, Reuters reported on Friday.
Estonia and Latvia have expelled one diplomat each while Lithuania expelled two. Relations between Moscow and the former Soviet states have reached their lowest point in recent times.
Lithuania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gabrielius Landsbergis, commented, “the EU should have less undercover Russian spies”.
Earlier this month, the Czech Republic called on EU and NATO partners to show solidarity and remove Russian spies.
Wave of expulsions
Bulgaria threw out two Russian diplomats last month, Poland expelled three earlier this month and Slovakia expelled four on Thursday. Moscow responded by throwing out two Bulgarian and five Polish diplomats.
Daniel Milo, senior researcher at Slovakia’s GLOBESEC Policy Institute, said that while the actions of the Central European countries suggested a growing self-confidence, it could affect energy cooperation, given the region’s historical dependence on Russia in this regard.
As for the Czech Republic’s move, Milo said it was significant insofar as “Russia perhaps needs to see this is not an isolated act of a small country of 10 million people but that there is true sense of solidarity across the EU or NATO”.
“If that happens, it might serve as a strong deterrent to any future attempts to carry out such activities, as they did with the feeling of impunity previously”, he observed.
Relations between Russia and West in decline
The expulsion of diplomats comes against a backdrop of rising tensions between the West and Moscow, notably with regard to the treatment of the Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny and the situation in Ukraine.
Moscow warned about what it sees as a “mass anti-Russian psychosis” earlier this month. President Vladimir Putin announced an “asymmetric, fast and harsh” response to foreign powers that cross its red lines.
Citing Moscow’s relations with Poland, on Friday, Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted that because of “the efforts of the Polish authorities in recent years, contacts with Russia have been virtually frozen, a shameful war with Soviet monuments has been launched, attempts are being made to torpedo Russian energy projects, a large-scale anti-Russian information campaign is being carried out, history is being falsified, and anti-Russian sanctions by the West are endlessly prolonged”.