Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What Country Do You Think This Is?

Britain and Russia are having a row (rhymes with “cow”) over the latter’s refusal to turn over suspects in the radiation poisoning death of KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko. (Who knew the life of a spy could be dangerous?) Litvinenko, a critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, died in a London hospital, and may have unknowingly exposed others to deadly radiation.

To protest the Kremlin’s obstinacy, Britain has
expelled four Russian diplomats. In the big playground that is international relations, offenses are often returned in kind. Russia will surely be retaliating for Britain’s “provocative” act soon.

Embassies are considered a territory of their occupant’s country, even though they may be smack-dab in the middle of another country 6,000 miles away. The United Nations building is considered international territory, as if it were located in the open ocean, even though it’s in New York City.

I understand the reasons for respecting a country’s embassy as private property. But this “foreign soil” thing just seems like a game of “let’s pretend” to me. And these expulsions point to why.

If a Russian diplomat is in his embassy (aka sovereign territory) in the UK, how can the UK kick him out of their country? Is an embassy foreign soil or not? Make up your minds and get back to me.


Mara said...

I love the rhymes with "cow". Americans dont use that term, Row as in fight?

The Australian Embassy will be somewhere to run next week when I raise hell in the USA. Joking.

I've always wondered .. do foreign countries pay rent for the land they use?

Do they pay for the building that is erected?

Mara said...

I think, and can check as I am meeting with solicitors/lawyers today in Sydney, Diplomatic immunity applies even if the Diplomat breaks the laws of the country he is in.

So, if he commits a murder or something like that, he/she is covered. The country he is in expels him, but cannot arrest him.

There was a car accident here years ago that involved a Diplomat. Nobody was hurt, but he was not fined or charged etc etc. even though the accident was his fault.

In this case the Pommies are making a sorta protest I suppose and cancelling their Visas.

Not that Putin would be ruffled, he is as hard as they come.

There would be loopholes.

But my solicitor should know more.

Pete Bogs said...

diplomatic immunity has allowed many officials to get away with murder... if I visit OZ I have to follow the laws while I'm there... I don't see why it should be any different for diplomats...

yes, row in the US is "to row a boat" or "I'm sitting in the first row," and we have arguments/disagreements instead of "rows"

Mara said...

I found out.

You're right Pete. They can actually kill somebody and claim diplomatic immunity. The Federal Government can revoke their status at the time, however it is a complicated legal matter and very difficult.

And that also depends on the relationship with the country the diplomat is from and who to and who not to upset.

Usually the country of origin takes them home to live happily ever after.

Countries own the property they have their consulates and embassies on ... and they also own the buildings.

There go.

It sucks. Gawd knows what goes on behind closed doors in some embassies.

Mara said...

Oh as for the Russians.

The U.K. or any Government can revoke the diplomatic status at any time.

Although, if they stake out in the embassy the British Police etc etc cannot "storm" the building.

It belongs to Russia.

Pete Bogs said...

mara - there's a great moment in one of those stupid Lethal Weapon movies where a corrupt official is trying to save his hide... he's been responsible for many deaths, but when confronted by the cops pleads, "I have diplomatic immunity!"

then Mel Gibson puts a bullet in his head... no one is immune from that... lol

it was a very cathartic scene for those of us who hate to see powerful people (Libby, etc.) get away with crimes...

Pete Bogs said...

well, Russia's finally responded...

See how you like it!

LeftLeaningLady said...

The only thing I know about diplomats, ambassadors, etc (aside from what I learned in Lethal Weapon on immunity) came from a Sidney Sheldon novel "Windmills of the Gods". It was a great book, although the made for TV movie stunk. So, since I am so knowledgeable, I will tell you that while the embassy is considered a foreign country, the actual country that the embassy is in makes all the rules. (According to Mr. Sheldon)

Pete Bogs said...

"the actual country that the embassy is in makes all the rules..."

if so, I say we hold them to our laws... respect the boundaries of their embassy, but once they're outside in our country they're subject to our laws...

Mara said...

"the actual country that the embassy is in makes all the rules."

What my solicitor/lawyer said to that is that to enforce such rules is complicated and can get messy.

As we all have seen creating an "International Incident" and souring relations is something Politicians, (especially from the West) are not that inclined to do.

After the last couple of weeks dramas in England, I'd say the British have had enuf.

When in Rome do what the Romans do. Unless you have Diplomatic Immunity, of course.

Infinitesimal said...

yeah, but my understanding is that Russia sed that France did it (not in so many words) the radiation thing I mean... and they claim that why would they be so blatent about it (the poisoning) leaving a trail back to themselves... the most likely place that the radiation poison thingy came from...

So, the Frenchies... you know how snooty they can be... took that as a slap in the face with a white glove.

(you know, a duel)

I did not know about the expulsion, but you know those Frenchies...

The only thing they are good for is ruffled panties and perfume.

(the above comment is a direct influence of my Irish and English drinking buddies in NYC)

I am in a capital mood Bogs.

Can you tell?