The announcement of the expulsion of 23 British diplomats from Russia was of course inevitable – it was always a case of not if but when.
The question is, what happens next?
In its statement the Russians made it clear this may not be the end of the matter – saying they “reserved the right to take other measures against hostile steps from London”.
They are sending a message to London that if Britain wants to keep this going they’ll pack a punch back and maybe more.
But Russia’s tit-for-tat measures could have been a lot worse.
At the British embassy in Moscow, 23 members of staff are now busy packing their bags. That’s no surprise.
But even before the announcement, a wise man might have told staff at the British Council to get their suitcases out as well.
Russia hasn’t much cared for the British Council and its activities for some time – clamping down on it in the wake of the Litvinenko tit-for-tat retaliations. Now it’s being closed completely.
Russia has called the body “unregulated”. The British Council promotes cultural and educational links between countries and operates all around the world.
Russia is suspicious of it, and in any case isn’t particularly interested in promoting cultural ties after Britain announced no ministers or members of the Royal Family would be attending this year’s football World Cup in Russia.
Britain’s aim with its measures was to hurt Vladimir Putin by hitting the oligarchs in London who are close to him.
Britain hopes by clamping down on the oligarchs they will pull the plug on support for President Putin.
So you might have expected Russia would hit out at British business interests in Russia such as BP. In the event, that hasn’t happened.
We should now watch for the diplomatic language used by both countries. It has been verging on the hysterical of late.
Russia likening Britain’s Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson to a “fishwife” for saying Russia should “shut up and go away”.
It would be funny if it weren’t for the fact that this is two nuclear countries screaming insults at each other.
Russia’s retaliatory measures provides a chance for things to calm down.
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The Russians will be too busy presenting statesman Vladimir as the victor for the next few days.
They will want foreign media to be focusing on election success, not spies.