The good news is that the Skripal incident could be a turning point. Already, politicians in the U.K. are pointing the finger at Moscow. Conservative Member of Parliament Nick Boles this week captured an element of British opinion when he tweeted: “I do not see how we can maintain diplomatic relations with a country that tries to murder people on British soil and puts the lives of British citizens at risk.” He added that the time had come to “turn tough talk into action.”
This last part is harder than it sounds. The U.S. and the U.K. cannot and should not respond to Russian state-sponsored murder in kind. Just as it would make little sense for the U.S. to meddle in this month’s heavily rigged Russian presidential election as payback for the Russian hacks and trolls in 2016, it would be a mistake for Western spy services to get back into the practice of political assassinations. As a general rule, the West’s response to Russia should be focused on its strength, the power to exclude and isolate.
This starts with naming and shaming. Thus it’s vital for British authorities to investigate the attempted murder of Skripal and his daughter with aggression and haste. It would be unacceptable to wait another decade to inform the public about what happened.