Theresa May will need a demonstration of European solidarity in standing up to Vladimir Putin
When Vladimir Putin was asked recently what historical event he would change if he had the power, he said he would undo the collapse of the Soviet Union. This was not a surprising answer, but it was a timely reminder of what motivates Kremlin policy. Putinism embodies the feeling that Russia was robbed of its wealth and superpower status. The internal failings and atrocities of the Soviet system are of little consequence in this account of history. The Russian president’s project is the reversal, at any cost, of a humiliating defeat by the west.
The attempted murder of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy who worked for MI6, and the credible suspicion of Kremlin responsibility, must be seen in this context. The use of a sophisticated nerve agent points to an assassination attempt by a government actor. Moscow attacks such talk as “an anti-Russian campaign”. But commentary on Russian state television observed that “traitors to the motherland” are not safe on UK soil, alluding to the “strange deaths” of other Russians in Britain in recent years, not just the 2006 poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko.