Tensions between the West and Russia have continued to rise amid the Ukraine crisis, and reports of espionage on both sides have emerged. Slovakia, which is both a member of NATO and the European Union, has decided to expel three Russian diplomats from their embassy in Bratislava, because they have discovered through their intelligence services that spies Russians were part of their diplomatic delegation. However, this discovery followed the arrest by the Russian Federation of three Slovak nationals in Russia, suspected of being spies for the Slovak Republic.
Slovakia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning Russia and asking it to respect the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. The Russian Foreign Ministry, in retaliation, threatened that this “unreasonable action will not go unanswered”. However, the nature of their retaliation is unclear. Since Slovakia is a member of NATO and the EU, it is highly unlikely that a “hot war” will break out, but some kind of sanctions or the expulsion of diplomats would be a more likely decision on the part of Russia.
Accusations of espionage, that is, when a person is engaged in intelligence gathering in a country, are not common occurrences. During the Cold War, the CIA of the United States and the KGB of the Soviet Union would have had many informants, spies and traitors in their enemy’s intelligence services. This allowed both sides to learn about the other side’s knowledge and technologies, but at the same time led to many deaths of traitors, spies, and even civilians.
The Russian government’s decision to arrest Slovak diplomats and Slovakia’s retaliation now seem all too coincidental and are almost certainly linked to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Western diplomats in Russia probably broadcast their version of current events in Ukraine, and therefore contradicted the Russian narrative, and could pose a serious threat to the Russian state. As a result, the Russian government has decided to expel diplomats, which is not a serious event in itself, but could prevent Western countries from continuing their work of explaining the situation.
Ukraine is, and will continue to be, in the spotlight of millions around the world. The current situation continues to be of concern, as Russian forces now appear to have begun attacking civilians. In addition to the crisis unfolding in Ukraine, refugees in Europe could overwhelm Western governments and the European Union. The only solution that would benefit both sides is peace, and this will hopefully save Europe and the global community from a much larger war.