President Trump spoke with British Prime Minister Theresa May about Russia's poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter on British soil last week, and pledged his full support. He reportedly told May that he is with Britain "all the way", but stipulated that he would need to see evidence that the Russian government really was responsible. Trump's support for Great Britain will be critical in the coming months, but as history has shown, he isn't a reliable partner, and is almost certainly compromised by his own relationship with Vladimir Putin. This could have disastrous consequences for global stability, and is yet more proof of just how dangerous the Trump administration really is.
Theresa May set a deadline for Vladimir Putin to provide evidence that they were not responsible for the attack, but predictably, the Russian strongman has not complied and has waged a ridiculous propaganda campaign against Britain claiming the accusation is part of a grand conspiracy to smear Russia.
"The incident appears to be yet another crooked attempt by the UK authorities to discredit Russia," declared the Russian Embassy in response to London's demands.
"Any threat to take 'punitive' measures against Russia will meet with a response. The British side should be aware of that."
This is nonsense, and the Kremlin knows it. The evidence of the Russian government's involvement in the attack on Skripal and his daughter Yulia is overwhelming and obvious. The substance used in the attack, Novichok, is one of the deadliest chemical weapons ever created. The toxic nerve agent was developed in the former Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s and is extremely easy to detect, a fact Putin no doubt knew before ordering the attack. He knows that the rest of the world knows Russia was responsible, and his denial is simply a game he is playing to infuriate them.
A master of deceptive political tactics and brazen power games, Putin would have predicted the fallout from the orchestrated attack on British soil. His strategy likely has many aims, the primary being the assertion of Russian power against the West. Putin is rattling the cage and letting NATO allies know that Russia cannot be contained -- a fact he likes to remind them of every few years. Putin chose Britain due to its vulnerability during Brexit negotiations and isolation from Europe, and likely calculated that its major ally, the United States, would do nothing to support them. The attack forces the US to show where their allegiances lie, and Putin knows that Trump cannot defy his authority for reasons only he and many in the intelligence community understand.
But Theresa May is not backing down and has issued a severe threat that will escalate the situation further.
“This attempted murder, using a weapons-grade nerve agent in a British town, was not just a crime against the Skripals, said May. "It was an indiscriminate and reckless act against the United Kingdom, putting the lives of innocent civilians at risk. And we will not tolerate such a brazen attempt to murder innocent civilians on our soil.”
“Should there be no credible response, we will conclude that this action amounts to an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom.”
As of today, May has expelled 23 Russian diplomats from the UK and announced a series of measures to contain Putin's aggression. Russia will respond in kind, and the crisis will escalate as the EU coordinates to defend the UK and contain Putin as best they can.
While Trump has said he is with Britain "all the way", he has provided no measures to punish Russia, no measures to support May, and has been purposely vague when it comes to blaming Putin for the attack.
"As soon as we get the facts straight, if we agree with them, we will condemn Russia or whoever it may be," Trump told reporters
The words "if we agree with them," and "whoever it may be," are salient here given Rex Tillerson (who was still Secretary of State at the time) had declared before Trump spoke to reporters that the nerve agent "clearly came from Russia". Trump wants wiggle room to deflect blame from Putin and remove himself from a conflict that could deteriorate very, very quickly. This despite the fact that his own government believes Russia is responsible for the attacks on Great Britain.
The UK must prepare itself to be abandoned by the White House and deal with the Russian threat with its European allies. Without support from the US, Russia will be further emboldened and Putin will feel even freer to spread his vile brand of neo fascism throughout Europe and destabilize their democracies. He has already conquered the US, so why not take on the rest of the world?