Sergei Skripal scandal has sent UK-Russia relations tumbling. What next? | UK news2018-03-122018-03-12http://www.worldusnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/logo.pngWorld & US Newshttp://www.worldusnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/logo.png200px200px
Theresa May’s assertion that it is highly likely the Russian state has committed an act of aggression by poisoning the double agent Sergei Skripal plunges Anglo-Russian relations into their worst state since the cruise missile crisis in the 1980s.
The prime minister knows that she will have to go further than her response as home secretary to the 2006 murder of Alexander Litvinenko – some assets frozen, an end to intelligence cooperation and the expulsion of a number of Russian diplomats.
Although the UK is giving Russia 24 hours to prove the murder came about due to rogue operators gaining control of military grade nerve agent, no one expects the Russian ambassador, Alexander Yakovenko, will even try to convince the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, that the Russian state simply lost control of the poison.
Trust between the UK and Russia has been in short supply for years, and it is more likely Yakovenko will say Russia is the victim of media-induced spy fever.
It will leave May with no option but to confirm that the Russian state committed an unlawful use of force against the UK. That would place the onus on the Foreign Office not just to compile an effective unilateral response, but also to gather European and American support for a multilateral measures.
The context of Brexit, and Donald Trump’s ambivalence towards Putin, sets a diplomatic challenge for the Foreign Office. The UK has long been the anti-Russian outrider in Europe, and Johnson’s meeting with Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, in Moscow in December achieved little.
European Union countries come to the Russian issue with their own agendas and commercial interests. The EU foreign affairs chief, Federica Mogherini, has insisted the bloc was not suffering from sanctions fatigue over Ukraine, pointing to the imminent fourth anniversary of the annexation of Crimea. The EU competitiveness council on Monday renewed the existing sanctions regime.
But Angela Merkel, the reinstalled German chancellor, said she hoped the expected re-election of Vladimir Putin this weekend might provide a moment to restart the Minsk peace process. She favours further engagement.
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, on Monday fended off rare criticism of his Syrian policy from his predecessor François Hollande by defending his policy of engagement with Russia, arguing he did not think the years of complete absence of dialogue had led to any progress for France.
Equally the new Italian government, once it is formed, is likely to be influenced by the pro-Russian populist right.