Readers offer their thoughts on the fallout from the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury
Patrick Wintour is undoubtedly correct when he says that “the UK has long been the anti-Russian outrider in Europe” (Russian spy mystery, 13 March), but there is more to it than that. With the exception of the two world wars, relations between the UK and Russia (or the Soviet Union) have been uniformly bad for nigh on 200 years. Moreover, the two countries seem to bring out the worst in each other, so that relations have periodically been set back by dangerous, futile or sometimes downright silly incidents of a sort that seem not to occur in either Britain or Russia’s other bilateral relations: two incidents from the sillier end of the spectrum would be the decision in 1971 to expel over 100 alleged Soviet spies from London and the Russian insistence on dismantling most of the British Council’s activities in that country in 2008.
The UK will inevitably need to respond to the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal, but thereafter someone should seclude themselves in a quiet room to study the history of British-Russian relations, to assess the political, cultural and other factors that have brought about this state of affairs, and to work out (if possible, jointly with the Russian side) measures that might in due course lead to a sustainable improvement in relations. Given the present state of both Britain and Russia it will not be easy, but it is in everybody’s interests.