Sunday, May 28, 2017

Spying is Far From the Only ‘Action Incompatible with Diplomatic Status’

            Staunton, May 28 – Tallinn has not yet provided an official explanation for its decision to expel two Russian officials from Moscow’s consulate in Narva, but Estonian experts say that such actions are typically taken because the officials involved are engaged in espionage, “an action incompatible with diplomatic service.”

            There is no question these officials may have been engaged in spying given Moscow’s interest in Estonia’s defense programs and especially in NATO forces exercising there.  But it is important to recognize that in the case of Russian missions in the former Soviet space – and not just there -- spying may be far from the most serious violation of the rules governing the actions of diplomats.

            That is because, as Estonian and Lithuanian security agencies have pointed out in the past, roughly a third of all Russian “diplomats” in the Baltic countries have links to Moscow’s security services, with many not only spying but working to undermine these states (

            Among these activities are active involvement with the Russian-speaking community there. Indeed, an article in Moscow’s Komsomolskaya Pravda yesterday suggests that such activites may be the real reason the two Russian officials in Narva were expelled (

            Estonia has compiled an impressive record in identifying and expelling Russian officials who violate the rules of diplomatic practice not only by spying but by working against the Estonian government. Lithuania and Latvia have also stepped up their monitoring of Russian diplomats but have not expelled them.

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