In a perfect world, people learn from the mistakes of the past. In a perfect world, people create, they do not destroy. In a perfect world, there is no constant menace, fear, and animosity between people. Unfortunately, our world is far from perfect.
Communism and the Cold War between the Eastern bloc and the Western bloc were said to have come to an end in 1991. The costs and consequences of the Cold War were hugely detrimental for both United States and the Soviet Union. By spying, accumulating unnecessary military, and spreading hatred, both countries just wasted their time, energy, and natural resources — resources that could have been invested into peace settlements in the East and West. Both countries were fighting imagined enemies, living in fear for more than 50 years. They weakened not only their economies but also the lives of their people.
By 2018, everybody should have moved on. But as I said, people are unable to learn from their mistakes. It seems that the Russian regime is still based on threatening and oppressing its people and people outside of its country. They are still living with a nationalistic and xenophobic frame of mind. Instead of collaborating and negotiating peacefully, the Russian government prefers taking an aggressive position and fighting with the rest of the world.
On March 4, former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found on a bench after being poisoned with a nerve agent. The British government accused Russia of the act. This incident reminds me of the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, a British defector, by radioactive polonium in the London hotel in 2006.
Promptly after the scandal, NATO member countries expelled more than 140 Russian diplomats. As stated by the secretary of NATO, the coalition’s further steps follow a “dual track” approach, which means “defense” and “dialogue.” NATO allies are willing to show that there are “costs and consequences” for reckless actions by the Russian government.
This is one of the most forceful and unrelenting moves NATO has ever made in regard to Russia’s heedless behavior. In light of current and previous events, given the amount of involvement Russia has had, my only question is this: Why now? Why did NATO wait so long? I think expelling Russian diplomats from NATO is definitely the right move, but not only as retaliation against the poisoning of a spy and his daughter on British soil.
I strongly believe that using a nerve agent in someone else’s territory is a disgraceful act. But even aside from Skripal’s case, there has been much more to talk about.
Let’s be honest here: There has been a lot. An illegal annexation of Crimea, the Ukrainian crisis, the restless war.
What about the time when the Malaysian airplane was shot for no reason by Russian forces, ending more than 250 lives? In response, the Russian government accused Ukrainian military, as the airplane was shot in Ukrainian airspace. What did NATO do, besides showing its “concerns”? Alarmed by the annexation, NATO just sent fighter aircrafts and ships to Eastern Europe for extra security.
And what about the ongoing cyber-attacks, hacking, propaganda, and surveillance imposed on other countries by Russian intelligence? For example, there was a time when Estonian banking, media, and websites were blocked, so that officials could not communicate, and channels could not broadcast their news. The incident happened right after the disagreement between the Russian and Estonian governments, and the address from which those cyberattacks were coming was determined to be Russian. I used to believe that the incident was just a bogus story, but now I am assured that the Russian cyber-warfare is true.
Cases like this involving the Russian government are endless.
Again, I strongly believe that expulsion of Russian diplomats from NATO was the right move. But then I ask myself, what if the nerve agent was used not in the British territory, but somewhere else? What if somebody was poisoned, let’s say, in Syria or Afghanistan? I am curious: Would NATO even notice that it was used there? Perhaps if such highly coordinated and vigorous actions by NATO and world community were taken earlier, a lot could have been prevented.
But again, it is not a perfect world. People seem to care about stuff only when it affects themselves. Nevertheless, I hope that someday people will start learning from their mistakes, and nations will become less aggressive towards each other.
Correction (4/2/18): Due to an editing error, the original version of this article said the Skripals had been killed. In fact, they were poisoned but are still alive.