Wednesday

22nd May 2019

Spy row may undermine Russia's EU ambassador

  • A retired statue of Stalin in Lithuania - the spy row has something of the Cold War about it (Photo: wikipedia)

An escalating spy dispute between Nato and Russia could have a direct impact on EU-Russia relations by undermining the work of Moscow's ambassador to the union.

Russia on Thursday (30 April) confirmed that Nato has cancelled the accreditation of two officials at its mission to the alliance headquarters in Brussels, on charges of espionage.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

One of the two men, administration director Vasily Chizhov, is also the son of Russia's ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov.

With 21 out of 28 Nato states also being EU members and with the expulsion decision made at Nato's highest political level, the move has a quasi-EU stamp of approval.

The reaction of Russia's ambassador to Nato, Dmitry Rogozin, augurs badly for east-west relations, with Mr Rogozin promising "harsh and decisive" action in return.

Vladimir Chizhov declined to comment when contacted by EUobserver.

But the family connection is not flattering. Diplomats tend to see themselves as a caste above the secret services, which often plant a few undercover staff in important embassies.

The stain of suspicion will undermine the ambassador's authority, whether speaking at a think-tank event in future or acting as his country's chief negotiator on a new EU-Russia strategic pact.

"The question will always hang over him, if he knew about his son's activities and condoned them. It will be more difficult for him to function," Polish liberal MEP and EU-Russia relations rapporteur Janusz Onyszkiewicz said.

"He is burned," another senior diplomat in Brussels said. "It would not be surprising if he is quietly replaced a few months from now."

Speculation is divided on whether Nato deliberately set out to damage Mr Chizhov senior.

On one hand, the ambassador is popular for his open style, fluent English and wry sense of humour. But on the other hand, he is seen as a dangerous master of spin and an enemy of EU projects, such as the Eastern Partnership scheme to build closer relations with ex-Soviet states.

"He [Vasily Chizhov] was expelled because of his own duties, not his father's duties. He is a big boy and children become independent of their parents at some stage," Kadri Liik, the director of Estonia's International Centre for Defence Studies told this website.

"It's interesting that they [Nato] decided to hit his son, out of all the people they could have chosen at the Russian mission, which has 30 or 40 staff," an EU official said.

The Nato expulsions come in the wake of the Herman Simm spy scandal. The Estonian defence official was in February jailed for passing Nato and EU secrets to Moscow over a number of years.

The European Commission in a leaked memo in February also warned staff to be on guard against "increasing" espionage levels, with spokeswoman Valerie Rampi at the time pointing the finger at Russia.

Analysis

EU should stop an insane US-Iran war

"If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!", US president Donald Trump tweeted on Monday (20 May).

EU urges US not to start war with Iran

Europe's top diplomats have said US actions risked triggering a conflict with Iran, as America makes plans to pour troops into Middle East in echoes of Iraq war.

EU-Sahel talks next week amid 'unprecedented attacks'

Officials from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger are meeting EU foreign, defence, and development ministers next week in Brussels. The visit comes amid "unprecedented levels" of armed attacks, says the UN.

News in Brief

  1. Poll: Denmark set to double number of liberal MEPs
  2. European brands 'breaking' chemical safety rules
  3. Report: Merkel was lobbied to accept EU top job
  4. May struggling to get Brexit deal passed at fourth vote
  5. German MPs show interest in 'Magnitsky' sanctions
  6. CoE: Rights violations in Hungary 'must be addressed'
  7. EU affairs ministers rubber-stamp new ban on plastics
  8. Private companies campaign to boost turnout in EU poll

Analysis

EU should stop an insane US-Iran war

"If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!", US president Donald Trump tweeted on Monday (20 May).

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us