U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley declared Wednesday that the credibility of the UN Security Council “will not survive if we fail to hold Russia accountable” for the use of a deadly nerve agent on UK soil against a former double agent.
Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy who fed intelligence to the Brits from 1995 to 2004 and was sent to the UK in a spy exchange in 2010, and his daughter Yulia collapsed March 4 at a shopping center in Salisbury. Both are in critical yet stable condition. The first police officer on scene, Nick Bailey, is still hospitalized in serious condition. A restaurant and a pub in the center tested positive for traces of the nerve agent as military personnel clean up the crime scene and surrounding area.
Prime Minister Theresa May said Monday that the two were poisoned with part of a group of nerve agents known as “Novichok,” and the UK has determined that Russia either attempted an assassination on UK soil or let WMD nerve agents on the loose. May called for a “full range of measures… in response” if Russia ignores UK requests to explain the attempted murder, and called upon NATO allies to back that response.
“The Russians complained recently that we criticize them too much,” Haley said. “If the Russian government stopped using chemical weapons to assassinate its enemies; and if the Russian government stopped helping its Syrian ally to use chemical weapons to kill Syrian children; and if Russia cooperated with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons by turning over all information related to this nerve agent, we would stop talking about them. We take no pleasure in having to constantly criticize Russia, but we need Russia to stop giving us so many reasons to do so.”
“Russia must fully cooperate with the UK’s investigation and come clean about its own chemical weapons program,” she added. “Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council. It is entrusted in the United Nations Charter with upholding international peace and security. It must account for its actions.”
Haley warned that “if we don’t take immediate, concrete measures to address this now, Salisbury will not be the last place we see chemical weapons used.”
“They could be used here in New York or in cities of any country that sits on this council,” she added. “This is a defining moment. Time and time again, member states say they oppose the use of chemical weapons under any circumstance. Now, one member stands accused of using chemical weapons on the sovereign soil of another member.”
Russian envoy Vissaly Nebenzia claimed that the British may have staged a false-flag attack to make Russia look bad ahead of the World Cup. “No scientific research or development under the title Novichok were carried out,” he said. “…Most probable source of this agent are the countries who have carried out research on these weapons, including Britain.”
On Wednesday, May unveiled the first steps in Britain’s promised response: “expel 23 Russian diplomats who have been identified as undeclared intelligence officers,” “develop proposals for new legislative powers to harden our defenses against all forms of hostile state activity,” and “make full use of existing powers to enhance our efforts to monitor and track the intentions of those travelling to the UK who could be engaged in activity that threatens the security of the UK and of our allies,” according to 10 Downing Street, which also released a video detailing Russia’s hostile actions.
May has spoken this week with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and President Trump. The Russian Embassy in the UK vowed a counter-response to the “unacceptable, unjustified and shortsighted” expulsions.
The White House said in a statement that the U.S. “shares the United Kingdom’s assessment that Russia is responsible for the reckless nerve agent attack on a British citizen and his daughter, and we support the United Kingdom’s decision to expel Russian diplomats as a just response.”
“This latest action by Russia fits into a pattern of behavior in which Russia disregards the international rules-based order, undermines the sovereignty and security of countries worldwide, and attempts to subvert and discredit Western democratic institutions and processes,” the statement continued. “The United States is working together with our allies and partners to ensure that this kind of abhorrent attack does not happen again.”