While expulsion of diplomats is a common international practice, the seizure of diplomatic property, even if it allegedly was used for "illegal" activities, is a violation of international law, says Rein Mullerson, Valdai Club expert and professor at the Tallinn University. However, if the present Republican administration agrees to return Russia's property, it would add more oil to the fire of anti-Russian hysteria, fueled both by the Democrats and the Republicans in the US.
"From a legal point of view, this issue is quite simple: of course, this is contrary to international law: first, this property was used for diplomatic purposes, and it had diplomatic immunity. As I understand, it was Russian property since the times of the Soviet Union, and not the rented premises. Such a seizure of diplomatic property is contrary to international law and, in particular, diplomatic law," Rein Mullerson said in an interview with valdaiclub.com.
In 1979, Iranian students seized the US embassy together with the diplomats inside. This was a flagrant violation of diplomatic immunity. The current seizure of Russian property also violates the norms of diplomacy, the expert believes. "To link this issue with some other aspects, concessions from Russia will not work . . . If the expulsion of diplomats is an ordinary step, the seizure of diplomatic property, even if there was "illegal" activity, is a violation of international law," Mullerson added.
However, from the political point of view, the problem is that if the present republican administration agrees to return Russia's property, it would add more oil to the fire of anti-Russian hysteria, fueled both by the Democrats and by the Republicans.
"All states, including Russia and the US, are conducting intelligence activities against each another. This is clear to even a schoolboy. Even if such activities were conducted from the premises that have been seized, this does not justify the seizure of this property."
"As a former diplomat, I know that such activities are conducted mainly from the embassies, that is, the intelligence station is usually located in the embassy." To stop such activities it would be necessary to seize all the embassies," Mullerson said.
As for Russia's response to such steps, a political solution is required. "In this case, Russia can take some retaliatory measures, but they must be proportionate and adequate," Rein Mullerson concluded.