The United States consulate in St. Petersburg, which Russia announced will be closed.
To all outward appearances, Russia's retaliatory expulsions of American and other diplomats followed the old Cold War pattern : A Soviet deed would prompt Western punitive measures. Moscow would blithely deny any wrongdoing, declare itself victimized by a two-faced West and strike back with equivalent measures. So it was, for example, when the United States boycotted the Moscow Olympics in 1980 over the invasion of Afghanistan and the Soviet Union led an Eastern Bloc boycott of the Los Angeles Games four years later. And so it is now again, in Vladimir Putin's Russia.
Mr. Putin has fully embraced the old Kremlin aversion to ever admitting wrongdoing , whether it's shooting down a Malaysian jetliner , or killing Alexander Litvinenko , or seizing Crimea , or fighting in eastern Ukraine , or cyber-meddling in Western elections , or doping Olympic athletes . Or using a lethal chemical weapon to poison a double-agent and his daughter in a provincial city in England.
So far, déjà vu all over again. But there is a difference, and a potentially dangerous one. During the original Cold War, Moscow and Washington recognized that their ideological hostility and nuclear arsenals needed to be contained, so they talked through back channels and across a “hotline” to prevent unexpected crises from triggering confrontations, worked on disarmament and held regular meetings at all levels, up to the top.
A military hotline still operates to avoid clashes between American and Russian forces in Syria, but as tensions rose last week, António Guterres, the United Nations secretary general, suggested it was time to revive the Cold War channels of communication and control. “Those mechanisms have been dismantled,” he said. “I do believe that mechanisms of this sort are necessary again.”
Post-Communist Russia is not the obvious enemy the Soviet Union was. Throughout Russia's slow slide into authoritarianism, there has lingered a hope that relations with Moscow can be reset, as Hillary Clinton sought to do and as President Trump seems eager to do. And while Mr. Putin's drive to restore Russian influence and might — witness his proud unveiling of an intercontinental missile in March that “can reach any point in the world” — is an echo of Soviet behavior, Russia has also undergone a considerable transformation since 1991. Russians travel widely and have nearly unlimited access to information and technology, and the Soviet command economy has given way to far greater consumerism.
More significantly, there is no Western consensus on Russia of the sort that held against the Soviet Union. European politicians like Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Hungary or Czech President Milos Zeman are open admirers of Mr. Putin, and President Trump's relations with the Kremlin are a major question mark. Though the United States expelled 60 Russian diplomats and closed the Russian consulate in Seattle, Mr. Trump made no comment on the crisis, either when he called Mr. Putin last week to congratulate him on his re-election or since.
All that makes the current confrontation less predictable than the showdowns of the Soviet past. Both Britain and the United States have left open further actions against Russia, to which Moscow would inevitably respond, and the deterioration in relations could affect efforts to find common ground on Syria or Islamist terrorism.
That, however, is not an argument for looking the other way when Russia violates the most elemental norms of international behavior. Russia is not the old Soviet Union, which makes it all the more imperative for the West to send a clear message that the old wiles and subterfuges also belong in the dustbin of history.
The former K.G.B. agent in Mr. Putin may find it intolerable that a turncoat is living comfortably in Britain, but it must be made clear to him that the West will unite in fury — yes, including Mr. Trump's America — when Russia's most fearsome weapons are deployed in a peaceful English town.
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