Vienna will not expel Russian diplomats in connection with the Skripal affair. The statement was issued by the representative of the Austrian government, Peter Launsky-Tiffenthal.
Austria is is now one of the few Western countries to take a clear stance against the anti-Russian frenzy whipped up by Britain in recalling diplomats.
Launsky-Tiffenthal said: “We will not take any measures at the national level, we will not expel diplomats, the reason for this is the following: we intend to keep open channels of dialogue with Russia, Austria is a neutral country and a kind of bridge between East and West.”
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, made a similar statement. “We want to be bridge builders and keep the channels of communication to Russia open”.
The representative of the Cabinet however said that Austria supported the decision to withdraw the EU ambassador from Moscow for consultations.
Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, a former criminal lawyer, said he needed more information from British Prime Minister Theresa May before making a decision.
Earlier, 18 Western countries announced the expulsion of Russian diplomats as a reaction to the alleged poisoning of former Colonel GRU Sergei Skripal in the British city of Salisbury.
In Italy Matteo Salvini – the man most likely to become Italy’s next Prime Minister following the recent election – voiced his strong disagreement with the expulsions.
Salvini tweeted: “Boycotting Russia, renewing sanctions and expelling diplomats does not resolve problems, it aggravates them.” He added: “Sanctions and handcuffs? Dialogue is better. I want a government that works for a future of peace, growth and security, Am I asking too much?”
The Skripal affair has only highlighted the policy divide within the bloc regarding Russia. Salvini’s comments show voters may have hardened their feelings against the EU’s anti-Russian sanctions decisions.
The expulsions of Russian diplomats in Europe have been vicious following the example of the UK. Alarm over this growing division within the EU, explains the recent call from Germany for the abolition of national vetoes in EU Council decisions on foreign policy.
The European Union is considering making foreign policy decisions subject to majority votes, rather than requiring the unanimous agreement of all members states.
German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen said last month: “We are thinking about perhaps moving towards a majority vote in diplomacy and foreign affairs so that we can respond rapidly to crises and speak with one voice, one European voice.” She spoke at a London School of Economics German Symposium event, Reuters reported.
“And so you cannot be blocked by the one country who doesn’t want you to utter anything in the direction (that) Europe wants to speak.”
While Austria and Luxembourg have refused to expell Russian diplomats, France, Poland and Canada have said that, like Germany, they plan to kick out four diplomats; the Czech Republic and Lithuania three; Italy, Denmark, Spain and the Netherlands two; and Estonia, Latvia, Sweden, Romania, Croatia, Albania and Hungary one.
On Tuesday, Australia also announced that it would expell two Russian diplomats.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that Kiev would expel 13, adding without irony that Russia had demonstrated “its dismissive attitude not only to the sovereignty of independent states, but also to the value of human life.”
Moscow pointed out that further measures could be taken “should there be any more hostile actions against Russia”.
NATO has been threatening the European Union, using baculine discipline, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Russian news agency TASS on Monday.
“The baculine discipline in the European Union… We know only too well who is behind the European Union: NATO is behind the European Union,” she said in an interview with the 60 Minutes program on the Rossiya-1 television channel. “The European Union is an attractive political construct, with the powerful North Atlantic Alliance being behind it.”
“The task was to demonize Russia and what we are witnessing now is part of a long-term program of unbridled Russophobia. It is a matter of not only Russia as a country, it is a matter of Russians and the Russian people,” she added.