NOW it has been established that a Russian “military grade” nerve agent was almost certainly used to poison former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulla in Salisbury, Theresa May’s carefully defiant statement to Parliament encapsulated the crisis.
Either this was a “reckless and despicable act” perpetuated by the Russian state, said the Prime Minister in a speech of strong statesmanship, or the Kremlin has lost control of those responsible for handling this chemical weapon which has also left a police officer, Nick Bailey, seriously ill.
Having assessed the evidence, rather than offering a knee-jerk reaction demanded by many, much now hinges on the response that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has been ordered to ascertain from Russia’s ambassador by the close of today before Mrs May informs MPs about her next course of action.
If it is certain that Vladimir Putin’s regime was behind this latest act of aggression against the West, as appears likely, Britain will have to go further than it did after the murder of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006 when his poisoning led to the expulsion of diplomats and the freezing of assets held in the UK by Russian oligarchs. Yet, given this has proven to be of little deterrent, any action by Mrs May’s government must be backed up by the UK’s allies around the world. They, too, can’t allow such flagrant breaches of international law to go unchecked.