Moscow Signals It May Downgrade Relations With the West

The Kremlin vowed to retaliate after Kiev launched US-supplied long-range missiles in an attack on the Crimean Peninsula, killing four and wounding over 100

Amid recent escalations in the Ukraine proxy war, the Russian Federation is considering downgrading relations with the West, though no decision has been made yet. This comes less than a week after Kiev launched long-range missile strikes on Crimea, leaving four Russians dead and well over 100 wounded. Moscow vowed “retaliatory measures” would follow.

Downgrading ties with the West as a result of NATO’s proxy war in Ukraine would be unprecedented. At the height of the previous Cold War, during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, relations between the two nuclear superpowers were never abandoned. Currently, the US and its allies in Europe maintain embassies in Russia and, likewise, Moscow still operates its diplomatic facilities in Washington and European capitals. However, diplomats report working in the most hostile environment in decades.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Moscow is studying the issue and explained to the Izvestia newspaper that ambassadors have historically played an arduous but critical role, permitting communications channels to function during particularly tense periods.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described “the issue of lowering the level of diplomatic relations” as “standard practice for states” facing “unfriendly or hostile manifestations.” He added: “Due to the growing involvement of the West in the conflict over Ukraine, the Russian Federation cannot but consider various options for responding to such hostile Western intervention in the Ukrainian crisis.”

On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said US and Ukrainian involvement in the “terrorist” attack on the Crimean peninsula was beyond doubt. The Foreign Ministry claimed US intelligence was used to coordinate the bombing, which utilized US-supplied ATACMS missiles, noting a US drone was operating nearby. The ministry declared Washington “has effectively become a party” to the war and threatened “retaliatory measures.”

In recent weeks, several NATO member states, including the US, Britain, France, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Poland, and Denmark, have given their Ukrainian proxy army the green light to launch Western-provided weapons into the Russian mainland as well as Crimea. Russia has strongly admonished London that if its weapons are used for attacks on Russia, Moscow will respond in kind with strikes against British military sites in Ukraine and “beyond.” Paris is also leading an effort to deploy NATO troops to Ukraine to train Kiev’s forces for its war with Russia.

Additionally, the EU just approved the transfer of more than a billion dollars’ worth of arms, purchased with interest profits gained from stolen Russian sovereign assets, and imposed scores of sanctions against Moscow.

Over the coming months, Copenhagen and Amsterdam have said they will arm Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets and clarified they may be used for strikes against Russian territory. Outgoing NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg hailed the hawkish turn in war policy, insisting, without a hint of irony, that the Kremlin should not interpret this as escalatory. Moscow views the planned F-16 transfer as a strategic threat, as the jets can carry nuclear weapons. Kiev must store the warplanes on NATO territory, which Russia says can be legitimately targeted as well.

The North Atlantic alliance also has its sights set on China, which maintains a “no limits” partnership with Moscow. Russian President Vladimir Putin recently inked a defense pact with Pyongyang – which Washington has threatened with obliteration – and warned “NATO is already ‘moving’ there [to Asia] as if to a permanent place of residence. This, of course, creates a threat to all countries in the region, including the Russian Federation. We are obliged to respond to this and will do it.”

Connor Freeman is the assistant editor and a writer at the Libertarian Institute, primarily covering foreign policy. He is a co-host on the Conflicts of Interest podcast. His writing has been featured in media outlets such as, Counterpunch, and the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity. He has also appeared on Liberty Weekly, Around the Empire, and Parallax Views. You can follow him on Twitter @FreemansMind96.