Russian flag.

Yulia Skripal was released from hospital yesterday after she and her father Sergei were exposed to a chemical nerve agent in Salisbury in early March.

A lot has happened in the last month, not least the expulsion of more than 150 Russian diplomats from countries around the world in response to Yulia and Sergei’s poisoning.

But what do these expulsions mean for international relations?

Speaking with Prismatic, Dr Frands Pedersen a senior lecturer in international relations explains the importance of this diplomatic upheaval.

First of all, what are diplomats?

So diplomats are selected to work for their country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, acting as representatives abroad. This can involve negotiation, implementing foreign policy and even gathering information. Some of these diplomats were even suspected of being intelligence operatives.

But what do these representatives have to do with the poisoning of the Skripals?

After Prime Minister Theresa May pointed at Russia as being responsible for the Salisbury poisonings, she ordered the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats from the UK as punishment.

In a move of quick reciprocity (what you do to me, I’ll do to you), the Russian government then expelled the same number of UK diplomats from Russia. This was followed by a spokeswoman for the foreign ministry saying a further 50 British diplomats would be expelled from Russia so that both countries had equal numbers of diplomats.

But the UK wasn’t alone in expelling Russia diplomats, but why did so many others join in?

Because of the use of a nerve agent on UK soil, other countries felt a red line had been crossed and that a unified front had to be represented, showing Russia that this behaviour would not be tolerated.

Speaking in the House of Commons on the 26th of March, Theresa May

“Today’s actions by our allies clearly demonstrate that we all stand shoulder to shoulder in sending the strongest signal to the Kremlin, that Russia cannot continue to flout International law and threaten our security.” – Theresa May

This map shows which countries joined the UK in expelling Russia diplomats, and just how many they each expelled.

But what do all of these expulsions actually achieve? Dr Pedersen explains…

Expelling diplomats isn’t just a way for one country to tell another they’ve overstepped the mark. It’s a far better alternative to closing embassies all together which would mean no communication at all.

But where do we go from here, could this expulsion of diplomats lead to something more serious?

Feature image courtesy of: Dmitry Dzhus.

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