Civilians are slowing becoming the victims of poor relations between the United States and the Russian Federation. Whether it be difficulty in acquiring visas, or actual arrests for espionage, it is becoming more arduous, even dangerous, for those with family or loved ones on either side of the new Cold War.
The latest developments include the arrest of Paul Whelan for espionage in Moscow, who says he was only in Russia for a wedding. In addition Bloomberg reported on the arrest of a Russian citizens on a U.S.-controlled island, “Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the FBI arrested a Russian citizen in the Northern Mariana Islands, a Pacific territory overseen by the U.S. The ministry said Dmitry Makarenko was taken to Florida, although there’s nothing in U.S. court records to show he has arrived there. Makarenko was indicted on 2017 charges related to money laundering and the export of defense items, according to U.S. court documents.”
The arrest of Paul Whelan seems to be a response to the prosecution of Maria Butina in the United States for being a foreign agent.
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It is still unclear whether U.S. citizen Paul Whelan was indeed, as the Russian authorities allege, a spy, or whether he is the victim of mistaken identity or cynical state hostage-taking. Nonetheless, the danger is that we are sliding into an era when civilians become pawns in the game of modern statecraft.
It is hardly a new tactic, evident in the recent Chinese arrests of two Canadians after the chief financial officer for Huawei Technologies was detained in Vancouver following a U.S. extradition request. But it is also a chilling one in an age when technology, easy travel and seamless communications would otherwise seem to bring peoples together, writes The Moscow Times.
In any event, there doesn’t seem to be any let up in sight for the worsening situation between the two countries. Civilians seem destined to be harmed in the process.