UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s package of diplomatic and economic measures against Russia is measured, focused but unlikely to put additional economic pressure on either Russia or Vladimir Putin’s entourage, The Guardian reported quoting British defence and diplomatic analysts.
Jonathan Eyal, an associate director at the military thinktank Rusi, said he had expected a stronger reaction. Mathieu Boulègue, a Russia expert at Chatham House, another thinktank, said: “The Kremlin will understand this as a very mild response. Putin is unlikely to be worried by this.”
British officials described the package as calibrated, calm and fair, and said further options were on the table if the Kremlin did not change its behaviour.
The expulsion of 23 of the 58 accredited Russian diplomats of the embassy over seven days is very significant, and the largest single expulsion in 30 years. The decision to allow Russia’s ambassador, Alexander Yakovenko, to remain reflects the fact that if he was expelled Russia could simply apply to replace him. Any decapitation of the Russian embassy would only lead to reprisals in the UK, and the UK still needs an interlocutor on Syria, even if many of the discussions on this occur at the UN.
May stressed that there was no desire to target Russians in the UK, and the scale of the financial measures is limited.
As expected, the boycott of the World Cup is limited to ministers and members of the royal family. Intelligence-led cooperation about possible clashes between Russian and English football hooligans must now be in question.
The UK is using its convening powers to the full at the UN, the EU and Nato, but May in her statement was careful not to make any specific demands of other world leaders. Rusi’s Eyal said: “Perhaps we did not ask because refusal often offends,” pointing out that France and Germany are keen to open dialogues with Putin.
Chalmers said the statements of solidarity from UK allies were robust, apart from “the Trump wobble”, but added: “It will be much harder for other states to take the same concrete steps as the UK, such as cutting off diplomatic ties.” The French president, Emmanuel Macron, for instance, will not cancel a state visit to Moscow in the late spring alongside an army of French businessmen.
Officials admit the practical support the UK will gather in the months ahead will depend in part on convincing its partners that Russia, rather than an unknown non-state actor, was responsible for the attack. The scepticism of the Labour opposition hardly discourages scepticism in Europe.