The German press has recently been ridiculing the tit-for-tat exchanges between Moscow and Washington as trifling. Foreign Ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova’s hysterical outbursts about the supposed outrage of American intrusions into the properties now deprived of diplomatic status – largely in San Francisco – have led to comparisons between her and the characters in Angry Birds. Hostile Russian commentaries on Facebook have suggested that as a result of its helplessness Moscow looks more like Uganda than a major Power.
Suggestions have been made that Foreign Minister Lavrov step down. The newly arrived ambassador to Washington Anatoly Antonov, presented in the West as a hardliner, had appeared on Russian television saying the Americans and Russians needed to talk to one another (and what else is a newly appointed ambassador supposed to say?)
Antonov is now compared to Leopold the Cat, a popular children’s cartoon character whose byword is “Kids, let’s all get along with one another.” (V. Krest’yanikov, “Nad Lavrovym sgushchautsya tuchi”, Argumenti ru., 7 September 2017.)
Clearly pressure is growing in Moscow to take a tougher line with the United States. Yet Moscow is entirely unhelpful over North Korea and voted in favour of sanctions last time only to go along with the Chinese. And given continued American indignation at Kremlin meddling in the US elections – the high point of Obama’s failed Russian policy – a belligerent line is unlikely to lead to anything better. Antonov doubtless understands this much better than the voices of injured pride.