Here is an idea as to how we Brits can respond to Russia over the poison spy case. It’s the Russian election this weekend: let’s hack it, just like Moscow hacked Trump’s election and our Brexit. A taste of their own robot medicine: that’ll teach them.
Imagine it. Putin is of course expected to win by a landslide, and even if he wasn’t he would probably rig it. What if highly sophisticated British bots could somehow swing it the other way? The Russian elite would go mad. Foul play, they would cry; Russia Today would lead every news on Britain ‘collusion’. Then we Brits could spend the next year telling them how they didn’t understand Russian flyover country.
Except oh, we can’t. We don’t have a clue how Russia hacked our democracies, or even if they did at all. So Britain must resort to doing what we always do, which is stamping our feet and making empty threats.
Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, was adamant in the House of Commons in London today. Given that it is ‘highly likely’ that Russian agents killed another Russian agent on British soil, she said that Moscow had until Wednesday to explain itself. If not, ‘we will conclude that this action amounts to an unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the United Kingdom. And I will come back to this House and set out the full range of measures that we will take in response.’
But what might those measures be? We can re-up our diplomatic sanctions. We can pull the England football out of the soccer World Cup, or at least say Prince William will not attend. Or we can reiterate to Putin that we really are jolly cross.
No sane mind is considering direct military threats, of course, but if it did come to that, British sabre-rattling would be laughable. We don’t have much of an army these days.
The hawks of London are talking about seizing Russian assets — that is private London property owned by private citizens. But that’s not exactly feasible, given the fact we aren’t a banana republic — yet. The truth is that large parts of the most expensive parts of London are owned by dodgy Russian billionaires. Many of them may be connected to Putin. But that’s the trouble with a criminal kleptocracy, it’s hard to know where the government ends and the organised crime begins, and vice-versa.
I’ve even heard loose talk about invoking NATO Article 5 — the one that says an attack against one NATO ally is an attack against all. But that article isn’t intended for responses to murky criminal cases that will probably never be solved. Anti-Russian feeling may be strong following Trump’e election and Brexit — or perhaps President Trump can get nasty with Russia on Britain’s behalf just to show a bit of distance from the Kremlin —
It’s humiliating for us Brits to admit it, but we just aren’t able to stop nefarious Russian activity on our shores. It may be distressing that murky Russian assassinations are taking place on our shores. But our options in response are pitiful. Before Prime Minister May and her cabinet escalate the rhetoric any further, perhaps it’s time we faced that truth.