Wednesday, March 14, 2018 at 3:24 PM

UPDATE: Britain Slaps Russia … on the Wrist for WMD Poisoning(s)

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Prime Minister May announced Britain’s retaliatory measures today. Parliament greeted them with cheers … that should have been jeers. After all, they amount to little more than the diplomatic punt I warned Putin would have just cause to mock.

Those measures include:

  • Expelling 23 diplomats (but hundreds of freelancers will pick up the slack);
  • Increasing inspections of private flights from Russia (but oligarchs will merely make stopovers in Europe to avoid this harassment);
  • Freezing assets if using them poses a threat to national security (but oligarchs buying up property and laundering money are deemed beneficial to the national economy); and
  • Cutting off high-level diplomatic contacts, including canceling plans for British royals to attend this summer’s World Cup in Russia (but Princes William and Harry would readily admit that this smacks more of cutting off nose to spite face than punishing Russia).

Of course, despite its manifest guilt, Russia will play along by feigning outrage and responding in kind. And relations will be thus for a cooling off period, after which both countries will normalize ties and this matter will be forgotten … until the next hit.

In point of fact, May stressed that this feckless retaliation is not just for the Skripal attack but for as many as 14 others over the past decade. The fateful irony seemed completely lost on her.

Evidently, Russian oligarchs really have become Britain’s sacred (cash) cows. In which case, the best tit-for-tat response would have been to send an MI6 agent — On Her Majesty’s Secret Service — to assassinate Edward Snowden, Russia’s most high-profile Western defector/traitor, with a bullet right between his eyes. He betrayed British intelligence agencies as much as American ones, after all.

This at least would humble Putin and command his grudging respect. Whereas, given May’s all-too-predictable diplomatic retaliation, one can hardly blame Putin for thinking he could (and can still) order such hits with impunity

That said, it’s noteworthy that Britain is a founding member of NATO. Because its cowering in the face of this Russian aggression sends all kinds of untenable messages. Most notably, it tells new members like Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — that were once a part of the Soviet Union—to “be afraid, be very afraid.”

What’s more, those members can be forgiven for fearing the writing-on-the-wall way Russia reasserted Soviet-like dominion over the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the Ukrainian territory of Crimea (all foreboding precedents I decried in “Russia Calls US (and EU) Bluff by Declaring Georgian Territories Independent,” August 27, 2008, and “Checkmated on Crimea, Obama Plays for Rest of Ukraine,” March 6, 2014).

As documented in my original commentary below, betrayal is the one thing Putin warns he can never forgive. And, with all due respect to turncoats like Litvinenko and Skripal, he probably considers a former Soviet Socialist Republic joining NATO the worst betrayal imaginable.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has described the collapse of the Soviet Union as ‘the greatest geopolitical catastrophe’ of the 20th century.

(BBC, April 25, 2005)

In the meantime, the pathetic reality is that

  • Britain can barely defend itself against Russia;
  • America can’t even bring itself to accuse Russia – its “rogue” UN ambassador notwithstanding (Last summer, the Republican-controlled Congress voted nearly unanimously to strengthen the sanctions Obama imposed on Russia for launching cyberattacks on the 2016 presidential election. But, despite bipartisan protests, Trump refused to impose them. DC gossip has it that he will use this attack, citing that US-UK special relationship, as a pretext to finally do so — no doubt praying that Putin, his puppet master, will understand); and
  • Germany and other European countries are too dependent on Russia for oil and gas to impose any meaningful sanctions on it (a self-immolating dependency I’ve been decrying for years in commentaries like “Europeans’ Penny-Wise, Pound-Foolish Appeasement of Putin,” May 3, 2014).

Is it any wonder Putin determined long ago that the NATO alliance, for all intents and purposes, is just a paper tiger? But I digress …

This is hardly Britain’s Darkest Hour. But it’s a dark day for this putative world power. Its de facto surrender to Russia must have Winston Churchill rolling over in his grave.

Related commentaries:
From Litvinenko to Skripal
Checkmated on Crimea
Russia calls US bluff

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