The policy of responding to assassinations on British soil is a near non-existent one. Her Majesty’s Government is certainly in the habit of huffing, and steam can issue from deliberations in the House of Commons. But substance is often absent.
When Buzzfeed conducted an investigation into the mortuary of incidents in 2017, it found a degree of indifference on the part of British authorities. Trumpeting findings that fourteen individuals had “been assassinated on British soil by Russia’s security services or mafia groups, two forces that sometimes work in tandem”, the reporters honed in on British sluggishness. While the Russian bear was busy, Britannia was asleep.
The attempted poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia by a nerve agent is coloured by such a backdrop. With each day, Downing Street has had to seem to be doing something in linking the attempted killings with identifiable culprits. Britain is at a low ebb, barely finding its place at the Brexit negotiation table with the European Union. Weakness and questionable competence is all around.
While this has happened, President Vladimir Putin has been re-elected. Russia is revitalised. The Kremlin comes with conveniently heavy baggage of blame. A perfect situation, then, to point a distracting finger of accusation, making Britain the first state to accuse another of attacking it with a chemical weapon since the Chemical Weapons Convention came into force in…