Brexit Britain faces ‘beast from the east’ alone

Special Brexit Britain faces ‘beast from the east’ alone
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May (C) chairs a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee at 10 Downing Street in central London, on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 15 March 2018

Brexit Britain faces ‘beast from the east’ alone

Brexit Britain faces ‘beast from the east’ alone

LONDON: Faced with another Russian-linked assassination attempt on its home soil, the UK’s response to Moscow over the poisoning of a former double agent has been measured and comprehensive.
Assets have been frozen, 23 diplomats have been ordered to return to Moscow, and government officials and royal family members will not attend the World Cup this summer.
But when Theresa May and her government were weighing options to deploy against Moscow after a Russian-made nerve agent was used against Sergei Skripal and his daughter in southern England last week, the prime minister must have felt a cold, lonely chill blowing from the east.
With Crimea’s annexation, the slicing up of part of eastern Ukraine, the downing of a Malaysian passenger flight by its proxies, and the intervention in Syria to prop up the Assad regime, it is clear that Russia in the past decade has been flexing its muscles as a rogue state with complete disregard for innocent civilian life.
Moscow has continued its behavior on the highest international stage in recent years, brandishing its veto at the UN Security Council with increasing frequency. It stands accused of intervening in the democratic processes in the US and other countries, and attempting to fuel the rise of populism in Italy, Austria, Hungary and beyond.
Despite Britain’s strong words, there are limits to its retaliation, which does not carry the weight of the larger European bloc.
A European diplomat told Arab News that the UK has struggled to deal with the threat from Moscow, with 14 other deaths reportedly linked to Russia.
This comes after the assassination in London 12 years ago of Alexander Litvinenko, the former FSB officer who fell out of favor with Putin. The substance used then was the banned chemical agent Polonium 210.
Britain says the attack last week in the cathedral city of Salisbury was carried out with Novichok, a nerve agent made in Russian military facilities.
Russia denied any involvement in Litvinenko’s death, and this time, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has asked London to deliver evidence of the nerve gas agent used.
The incident could not have come at a worse time for May and for Britain, which is in the midst of a protracted divorce with Europe.
The ruling Conservative party, like the British people, remains divided on Brexit. While Donald Trump, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel have expressed solidarity with the UK, wordsx alone will not tame the Russian bear and its belligerent domestic and international agenda.
Britain’s response would have carried more weight with the backing of a European threat to apply sanctions against Moscow.
Many believe Britain’s standing up to Russia is a case of too little too late — the Russian bear is already in the backyard.
Russia, under Putin, has no interest in international law. Instead it is bent on using disproportionate violence and proxy wars to achieve its aims.