Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

The Spies May Be Gone, but Trump Still Panders to Putin

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

The Spies May Be Gone, but Trump Still Panders to Putin

Article excerpt

Byline: STATESIDE With US Editor Christopher Bucktin

NEVER before in history has there been such a collective expulsion of Russian spies, demonstrating Britain doesn't stand alone after the Salisbury poisoning.

The kicking out of more than 100 intelligence officers by 21 countries comes at a heavy price to Vladimir Putin who now appears more isolated than ever.

Leading the co-ordinated reaction following Theresa May's expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats from the UK, was the United States.

After weeks of dithering, America went on the front foot ordering 60 Moscow officials, including 12 suspected intelligence agents at the Russian Mission at the United Nations, to leave by Monday.

It was a move that was well overdue for Donald Trump, whose long refusal to criticise Putin and hesitancy to act against Russia's malign behaviour, has raised suspicions Moscow knows secrets it could use to blackmail the American president.

His administration's decision to kick out 60 of the Russian leader's spies offers some hope that the president may finally be forced to deal with the threat the Kremlin poses to the States and its Western allies.

But the emphasis is on "hope". If there is one thing we have learned during Trump's tenure in the White House, it is that this president has repeatedly shown he is very capable of doing things previously considered unthinkable.

And that's all the more reason to be glad he did not do so this time.

There is no doubt the expulsion of Russian spies is a blow to Putin's intelligence services, but it is only temporary.

Moscow's harmful operations in the West extend far beyond the agents it dispatches under diplomatic cover.

It has an army of trolls and hackers operating online, many of whom have been busy attempting to sow confusion about responsibility for the use of the nerve agent on Sergei Skripal and his daughter. …

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