Relations between Britain and Russia are sliding towards a new Cold War after UK Prime Minister Theresa May accused Russia of the recent poisoning of former spy Sergei Skirpal and his daughter. May announced to the House of Commons the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats whom she termed ‘undeclared intelligence agents’.
Skripal remains in a critical condition after exposure to a banned nerve agent in Salisbury last week, which government experts believe was manufactured in Russia. The Prime Minister said the act amounted to an ‘unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom’.
In 2007, Britain expelled four Russian diplomats after the murder of Alexander Litvinenko. An inquest in 2016 found that Litvinenko had been killed by FSB (Russia’s Federal Security Service) agents, with Vladimir Putin’s approval. Litvinenko, a former officer in the FSB, died three weeks after drinking tea laced with radioactive polonium-210.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said that it would respond in kind to Britain’s decision, stating that the expulsions had been used for ‘short-sighted political ends’. Meanwhile, at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council over the matter, US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley said the US supported Britain, stating that:
‘If we don’t take immediate concrete measures to address this now, Salisbury will not be the last place we see chemical weapons used. They could be used here in New York, or in cities of any country that sits on this council’.
Tensions are rising
The heightened tensions between the West and Russia come just two weeks after Putin boasted of Russian nuclear weapons that were invulnerable to NATO’s US-led missile defence system. Putin spoke of a nuclear-powered cruise missile with unlimited range, a nuclear-powered high speed underwater drone and a hypersonic missile.
In the address to Russia’s Federal Assembly, Putin also showed video clips of nuclear warheads destroying Florida, the site of US President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-lago estate.
Russia denies any involvement in the Skirpal poisoning…
…but few can deny Putin’s stranglehold on the Russian Presidency, or his resolve to return Russia to a world superpower.
Currently, the US seems to view China as more of a threat to global stability. The Trump administration only just announced that it will bring sanctions against Russia for alleged interference in the 2016 US election. But with Britain’s recent attacks on Moscow, Europe may again become the flashpoint for a renewed Cold War.