The British-Russian crisis moved a step closer to war yesterday after the Kremlin expelled four British diplomats in a tit-for-tat response to Monday's expulsion of the same number of Russians from this country.
The initial British action was taken after Russia had refused to hand over Andrei Lugovoi, the man suspected of murdering ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in London in November last year.
The minor political hiccup has become a major crisis for Britain, and even this escalated to a new level yesterday, when the Russian Navy recalled its fleet to port, and the Air Force was placed on high alert in a state of preparedness not seen since the Afghan conflict.
Russian Army High Command cancelled home leave for all military personnel, and withdrew to barracks all soldiers with 'fighting capability'.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he wouldn't be intimidated, and offered "no apologies" for bringing the country to the brink of war in his first month in office.
After his comments at the weekend, when he revealed that, politically, Britain and the US were "no longer inseparable", analysts say this latest defiant stance is the Prime Minister "flexing his ministerial muscles" and marking out his territory.
Russia's deputy foreign minister Alexander Grushko said Mr Brown had complicated "vitally important" security issues.
"There may be serious consequences", he said.