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Can we clear something up at the outset? The Russian government is not coming over all outraged because it knows it is being falsely accused of complicity in the attempted murder in Salisbury of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. It has more knowledge of the nature of its own involvement than anyone.

No, its theatrical expressions of outrage stem from quite other feelings. The feeling that it should be allowed to get away with poisoning “traitors” in the UK, as it did with Alexander Litvinenko. The feeling that London, having been more greedy than any other financial centre for Russian mafia money, is not showing appropriate respect to the capo di tutti capi himself — Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Russian embassy in Ottawa. Canada joined Britain and other allies in expelling Russian diplomats in response to the Salisbury attack. Photo: Getty Images.

Soon after the Salisbury nerve gas attack on Sergei and Yuliya Skripal, James Nixey and I set out principles that should govern the UK’s response, and assessed potential actions against them. We argued that Britain should:

  • impose measures that are not merely symbolic, but impose costs to deter future unacceptable actions;
  • target key Russian interests, not the wider population; and
  • accept that an effective response will impose costs on some UK interests.

The UK response set out by Theresa May on 14 March comprises three sets of measures:

  1. Diplomatic sanctions: high-level bilateral contacts have been frozen, and no ministers or members of the royal family will attend the World Cup.
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Un domingo tranquilo en Madrid me sorprendió el artículo en ABC «Negación, distracción y confusión» del señor Simon Manley, embajador del Reino Unido en España. Simon es un colega a quien aprecio por su alta profesionalidad y a quien tengo una simpatía personal. Como veo, los representantes del Reino Unido han recibido las instrucciones desde Londres para promover insistentemente la postura británica sobre el llamado «caso de los Skripal» a través de la prensa. Nosotros, los diplomáticos, estamos convencidos de que «los canales diplomáticos» son los más adecuados para resolver problemas. Pero si la parte británica se siente incapaz de convencernos a través del diálogo profesional y escoge la prensa como el canal de comunicación, no me queda otra opción sino responder por la misma vía.…  Seguir leyendo »

Un domingo tranquilo en Salisbury, una ciudad con una de las catedrales más bonitas del Reino Unido, un padre y su hija fueron víctimas del primer ataque con agente nervioso cometido en Europa desde el fin de la Segunda Guerra Mundial.

Serguéi y Yulia Skripal todavía están en el hospital y un agente de policía que acudió en su ayuda también se encuentra en estado crítico. Sin olvidar a las otras 35 personas que tuvieron que recibir tratamiento médico por encontrarse en aquel momento cerca del lugar del ataque.

El ataque en Salisbury el pasado 4 de marzo fue un descarado intento de asesinato de civiles en suelo británico que puso en peligro a cualquier persona, de cualquier nacionalidad, que por azar se encontrase allí.…  Seguir leyendo »

A police officer stands near the scene of the attack on Sergei Skripal in Salisbury. Photo: Getty Images.

There can be little doubt that the Russian government is behind the attempted assassination of double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter. While there were the typical official denials, the Russian state has ways of communicating its innocence to foreign governments. In this case, it has not done so.

The use of a nerve agent fits a pattern established by the murder of Alexander Litvinenko with polonium in 2006. This was not a McMafia-style operation commissioned by ‘rogue elements’. If they were to blame, Moscow would be even more alarmed than London. Since the chaos of the 1990s, Putin has restored the state’s traditional prerogatives in foreign covert operations, as well as the president’s prerogatives within it.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sberbank offices in London. Photo: Getty Images.

If confirmed, the attack on double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter would be the second known Russian state-sponsored murder in the UK, following the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006. Other suspicious cases are now being reopened.

What principles should guide an effective response?
  1. Effective measures are more than symbolic. They impose costs that punish unacceptable actions and deter future ones. The UK’s response to Litvinenko’s death – expelling four diplomats, imposing visa restrictions for officials, and suspending security service liaison – was clearly not sufficient enough to deter the latest attack. Symbols matter, but only if they credibly convey intentions about the consequences of further action.
…  Seguir leyendo »