British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday ordered the immediate expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats believed to be involved in espionage, in the first reprisals against Moscow for a chemical attack on a former double agent.
May, speaking to Parliament, said the response would include a halt to high-level meetings with Russian officials and the cancellation of a planned visit to Britain by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
She also said the royal family and government ministers would boycott this summer’s World Cup soccer tournament in Moscow. More countermeasures — some clandestine — are under consideration.
The prime minister repeated the conclusion of British investigators that Russia had either deployed or lost control of a dangerous nerve agent used in the attack targeting former spy Sergei Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia.
May said Russia’s dismissive response to her demand for explanation has “demonstrated complete disdain for the gravity of these events.”
“Instead, they have treated the use of a military-grade nerve agent in Europe with sarcasm, contempt and defiance,” she told lawmakers.
The British leader gave no further details on the Russian diplomats ordered out of the country but said they were deemed “undeclared intelligence officers.” She called it the largest expulsion of Russian diplomats from Britain since Cold War-era retributions in the 1970s.
We're in a new Cold War folks, we've been in one for years, and we're losing it. Badly.
Expect swift Russian retaliation on both the diplomatic and economic fronts. Moscow can make things rather uncomfortable for Europe if they want to, not that Vladimir gives a damn about what May thinks.
This is a fight Putin has wanted for a long time, and now that he's taken the US off the board with Trump and company, and cracked the EU open with Brexit while picking up a few things in the Ukraine, he can make his next move. The Germans are on the ropes with Merkel barely hanging on, the French have bigger problems to worry about right now with Marine Le Pen's merry crew of racists, and the rest of the EU is trying to keep the nationalist cancer in Poland from spreading.
The Brits are standing up to him on this for now, but I expect that will change sooner rather than later, and Vlad knows how to play the long game. He's not going anywhere anytime soon.