While the media are focusing on Rex Tillerson’s firing, the special election in Pennsylvania, and students protesting for more restrictions on guns, a bigger story is not getting the attention it deserves: The attempted murder last week of a former Russian spy, and his daughter, in England with a military-grade nerve agent.
In the past, former Russia/Soviet spies have been murdered with poison (in their tea, with the tip of an umbrella), but this involved a chemical weapon that could have, and actually did, harm other people, too. In addition to the former spy and his daughter, an English police officer who was one of first on the scene is in hospital, too.
It is important to emphasize that this is not just Spy vs. Spy, a la Mad Magazine. This was an attack with a chemical weapon on the territory of another country. If things had turned out a little differently, how many British citizens could have been killed? At that point, we could be talking Article 5 of the NATO treaty.
This needs to be stopped. Now. Vladimir Putin needs to understand this cannot happen again. We tried to tell him that after Russia invaded Ukraine, but he apparently did not get the message. Maybe because the message was not clear enough. This is not just a matter for England. The West, i.e., NATO, et al, needs to come down hard, harder than it has so far, on Vladimir Putin, and his billionaire friend oligarchs. England has not done a good enough job of this in the past. Russian investment in England seemed more important. That has to change.
Countries like Germany need to stop encouraging Russia with things like the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The last thing the West should be doing is building pipelines to increase its dependence on Russian energy. If Germany won’t spend more on its military, it can at least buy less Russian gas.
Donald Trump needs to step it up, too. The fact that Russia meddled in our election in 2016 doesn’t make his victory illegitimate. He won the Presidency on his own (with the help of the Democratic candidate2). I doubt President Trump will understand the long-term importance of a strong response to this attempted murder. Rex Tillerson did. Hopefully, the new Secretary of State will, and hopefully he and the rest of the President’s foreign policy team convince President Trump to act.
Neither President Obama nor President Trump has not done enough to stop President Putin in the past. We need to start doing more now.
1 I included the first two things in this list because, while Democrats are more than happy to see Russia and Vladimir Putin as a threat now, not too long ago, Barack Obama was ridiculing Mitt Romney for saying that Russia was our biggest geopolitical foe (and here) and was telling then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that, once he was re-elected he would have more flexibility to negotiate with Vladimir Putin on ABM systems.
2 Who, based on recent comments she has made, seems bent on helping him get re-elected in 2020, too.