Cold shoulder (not Cold War)

Published March 18, 2018, 10:00 PM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola

 José Abeto  Zaide
José Abeto Zaide

By José Abeto Zaide

 

The United Kingdom will expel 23 Russian diplomats identified as intelligence officers because of the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

Prime Minister Theresa May said that UK looks to implement new powers to its sanction to freeze assets and withhold visas of foreign officials thought to be involved in corruption and human rights violations. All planned high-level contact between the UK and Russia are put on hold. British officials and the royal family will not attend the 2018 World Cup in Russia. (Regarding the withdrawal of invitation for Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the Russian spokesperson replied cryptically, “He never accepted it.”)

Moscow denied involvement in the incident and asked the UK to present evidence backing the accusations against Russia. The Russian Foreign Service circulated the statement from Foreign Minister Lavrov that Great Britain and Russia are signatories to the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and that this body has “plenty of experts who work with this convention and its issues… but evidently nobody is listening to them.” He ticked off  a course of action in case of suspected use of a banned toxic substance:

  1. The country affected should immediately address the country it suspects;
  2. The query must be answered within ten days;
  3. If the answer does not satisfy the first country (Britain) it should address the OPCW Executive Council and the conference of the states parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention.
  4. The side challenged (Russia) about the suspected substance has the right to receive access to the evidence, so as to conduct its own analysis.

According the Russian statement, it had “sent an official note asking for access to this substance so [Russian] experts could analyze it in accordance with the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. In the same note, we requested access to the facts linked with the investigation, considering that one of the victims, Julia Skripal, is a Russian national.”

No reply means rejection. FM Lavrov concluded, “So, instead of demanding that we respond to the British government’s ultimatum within 24 hours, it would be better for [Great Britain] to comply with their own commitments regarding international law.”

UK received support from US, France, EU and several other allies on the issue. A spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry, Maria Zakharova, said on the state Channel 1 that retaliatory measures were being worked up now, saying “They will be appropriate, comparable …mirror measures absolutely appropriate to the situation.”

***

This week, US President Donald Trump announced that Rex Tillerson will be replaced by Mike Pompero. Like the dramatis persona in John Le Carre’s thriller “The Spy Who Came In From The Cold,” the new State Secretary Pompeo is former CIA director, the agency which had observed Russian activity to influence the next US election cycle, the November mid-terms. Trump lavished praise on Pompeo, a former US army officer and congressman, calling him “the right person for the job at this critical juncture.” It isn’t clear if he meant by that more bare knuckle meetings or some diplomatic maneuver for the forthcoming meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.

Meanwhile, commenting on the state of bilateral relations with the U.S. Russia President Vladimir Putin chose to be philosophical, “It’s hardly possible to fall below the floor, so it is unlikely things will get any worse in this regard.”

In the event, the Philippines is not part of the action…because when the elephants quarrel it is the grass that gets stomped.

***

DIPLOMATIC NOTES. The Manila Polo Club overflowed last Thursday, the eve of former FVR’s 90th birth anniversary. A video clip showed excerpts of the inaugural speech of President Fidel V. Ramos at Luneta Grandstand…which was interspersed with the challenges he inherited for country driven by secession in the south…rebellion by the NPA…breakaway group within the military….indebtedness of the economy…power failure for the industry. He called on all Filipinos to pull together…or to go asunder.

The video showed a young Ramos as a PMA and as a West Point cadet …soldier…as volunteer and commanding officer of PHILCAG..as husband…diplomat…statesman…visionary. One bite size at a time, he met the challenges… and turned around the Philippines from the “Sick Man of Asia” to the Next Growling Tiger.

Ramos’ Secretary of Foreign Affairs Roberto R. Romulo, who was indisposed, asked former Undersecretary of Trade Tomas Alcantara to read his ‘Hail to the Chief’ recollection of the summits scaled by the Ramos administration.

FVR responded in typical fashion, including the signature EDSA jump – if only to assure all and sundry that there is still spring to this nonagenarian.

 

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