Britain feels confident enough to defy the order because senior officials calculate that Russia is exhausting its diplomatic capital by fighting on too many fronts.
President Vladimir Putin is confronting America, Britain and the West over a series of crucial issues: the future of Kosovo; the proposed missile defence shield; sanctions on Iran and an arms control treaty.
Instead of dividing the Western powers, Mr Putin's brand of diplomacy is uniting his opponents.
If Russia decides to shut down the British Council offices by force, perhaps by deploying riot police, a senior official said the Kremlin would make itself look "ridiculous, absurd and appalling".
Britain is gambling that Russia will confine itself to verbal protest because Britain is the largest European investor in Russia.
Put simply, Russia needs British capital and expertise to develop the oil and gas reserves which form the backbone of its economy. It makes Britain confident enough to face down Mr Putin.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
British Council Fights Back - IV
The Telegraph's analysis of the current situation is probably quite accurate: