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Millennium Post

Global outcast

Global outcast
A little over a week after Russian President Vladimir Putin won his fourth term in office, Western nations led by the United States and the EU expelled more than 130 Russian diplomats in an extraordinary coordinated response to a nerve agent attack in England that they said could only have been carried out with Moscow's involvement. Since the end of the Cold War, matters have never been as frosty. In fact, as matters stand, a new Cold War could be sparked anytime. The Western response has been the most stinging rebuke of the Kremlin since the expulsion of Russia from the G8 in response to the invasion and annexation of Crimea. A united West showed itself sufficiently fed up with a pattern of aggression and denial from Moscow to retaliate without waiting for conclusive proof of Russia's culpability in the March 4 nerve agent attack, which left a former Russian double agent Sergei Skripaland his daughter Yulia critically ill. The expulsions by 16 of Britain's 27 fellow EU members--despite the tough, ongoing Brexit negotiations-- amounted to a strong display of European solidarity with the UK, as the majority of the bloc brushed aside the initial hesitation of some countries to point a finger at Moscow. Russia has forcefully and repeatedly denied any involvement in the nerve agent attack. The international response also shows that Putin's credibility on the world stage is strained, no matter his popularity at home, where many voters expressed genuine support for him despite the suppression of any real competition in the election. Putin personally denied that Russian forces had invaded Crimea, then later admitted that the soldiers without insignia, initially referred to as "polite people" and "little green men," and which he called "local self-defence forces," had in fact been regular Russian service officers. Russia continues to deny culpability in the alleged downing of a Malaysian passenger jet over eastern Ukraine, flight MH-17, and it has denied meddling in the US and European elections, despite evidence implicating Moscow. Russia has similarly denied any involvement in the nerve agent attack, despite the UK laboratory analysis finding that the military-grade chemical weapon used was the one developed by the Soviet Union and could not have been handled by amateurs. The British government has also cited "Russia's record in conducting state-sponsored assassinations." Speaking in the House of Commons, UK Prime Minister Theresa May hailed the international action against Moscow as "the largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers in history." European Council President Donald Tusk, announcing the expulsions at an EU leaders' meeting in Varna, Bulgaria, said further punitive steps were still possible. Russia has threatened to retaliate appropriately soon. That is why the fears of a Cold War have now sparked off. At a time when world peace is at a premium, such development is pitiful.
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