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Europe, US on alert as covert Russian activities hit Cold War peak

Europe and the US are on high alert and sending Russian diplomats back home after the highly secretive nation upped its military activity. The world is on high alert after analysts studying Russia’s covert spies and the military said the highly confidential country hadn’t been this active since the Cold War. The US continues to take a hard-line approach to Russia, with President Joe Biden kicking out 10 Russian diplomats earlier this week and announcing sanctions.

Mr. Biden said the sanctions and the expulsion of the diplomats were punishment for the Kremlin’s interference in the US election, a massive cyberattack, and other hostile activity. In retaliation, Russia said it would expel US diplomats on Friday and sanction US officials in response while recommending the US envoy leave Russia “for consultations”.

Post-Cold War peak

European nations continue to express solidarity with the US as Russia ignites global tension.

While Russia routinely shrugs off espionage allegations as part of an “anti-Russian campaign” orchestrated by the US or Britain, analysts say that covert Russian activities in Europe have hit a new post-Cold War peak.

Mark Galeotti, a professor at University College London specializing in Russian affairs, said Russia was beginning to abandon any thoughts of peace and instead adopt a “wartime mindset”.


“The Russian intelligence community is now operating with a wartime mindset. They think they are in an existential struggle for Russia’s place in the world,” he told the AFP.

The 2014 uprising in Ukraine, which devolved into a war that continues to worsen, marked a turning point for Russia, Prof Galeotti said. In recent weeks, Russia’s massing of troops on Ukraine’s northern and eastern borders and the Crimean peninsula it annexed seven years ago have contributed to the sharp escalation in tensions.

US forces in Europe have raised their alert status in response, while NATO has issued warnings to Moscow.

On Friday, NATO reported that Moscow’s plans to block parts of the Black Sea would be “unjustified” and called on Moscow “to ensure free access to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov and allow freedom of navigation”.

Russian state media reported that Moscow intends to close parts of the Black Sea to foreign military and official ships for six months, triggering concerns in the US and EU.

In a forceful response, Moscow said top US officials, including Attorney-General Merrick Garland, Biden’s chief domestic policy adviser Susan Rice, and FBI chief Christopher Wray, would be banned from entering Russia.

Lists of officials banned from entry are usually kept secret. Still, Russia’s foreign ministry revealed the names due to the “unprecedented nature” of the current tensions with Washington.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters that Russia was responding to US sanctions in “a tit-for-tat manner” by asking 10 US diplomats in Russia to leave the country while also expelling five Polish diplomats in response to a similar move by Warsaw.

The US State Department later called Russia’s retaliation “escalatory and regrettable.

“It is not in our interest to get into an escalatory cycle, but we reserve the right to respond to any Russian retaliation against the United States,” a spokesperson said in Washington.

Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at mehlogy.com I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

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