More than 20 Western democracies expel Russian diplomats over the poisoning of an ex-spy in the United Kingdom.
More than the effect it has had, the most relevant thing about the West’s response to the Russian government’s alleged involvement in the attempted murder of the spy Sergei Skripal with a nerve gas in the United Kingdom has been the coordinated nature of the response. The expulsion of over 100 Russian diplomats from the United States and from around 20 European countries – among them Spain, Canada and Australia – in a gesture reminiscent of the Cold War, confirms that the explanations provided by Moscow for the dark chapter in Salisbury have not been sufficient. The modus operandi, the use of highly toxic chemical agents, the lack of hesitation over the magnitude of collateral damage that the attack could yet produce, and the devious style reminiscent of the worst methods of the old Soviet secret services, all reveal the troubling face of Putin’s Russia.
For this reason it is good news that the response to Moscow over the use of military chemical weapons came simultaneously from both sides of the Atlantic. President Donald Trump has taken a long time to show any signs of a response to the authoritarian drift of Putin, and this has given more credibility to the many who accuse Russia of having influenced the election of the business magnate. The response to the poisoning of Skripal is, in that sense, still a long way from the measures that a great power should put in place in the face of a foreign country’s interference in its electoral processes, without even mentioning Russia’s part in the wars in Syria and Ukraine, and intervention in Crimea.
The Kremlin’s expansionist policies and its desire to destabilize the West have, for a long time, warranted a firm response; Monday’s robust reply is just the first step and that Spain has acted alongside its allies is a good sign.