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Politics Here's how the UK could hit back against Russia after accusing Moscow of attempted assassination

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British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Monday that Russia was likely responsible for the nerve agent attack against double agent Sergei Skripal.

Military personnel investigating the site of Sergei and Yulia Skripal's collapse in Salisbury. play

Military personnel investigating the site of Sergei and Yulia Skripal's collapse in Salisbury.

(Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty)
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  • British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Monday that Russia was likely responsible for the nerve agent attack against double agent Sergei Skripal.
  • May said that if Russia didn't respond that it would consider the attack an "unlawful use of force" on Russia's part.
  • Two analysts separately told Business Insider that NATO getting involved is unlikely, but that the UK will probably impose sanctions on Russia and expel some of its diplomats to deter Moscow from such actions in the future.
  • One analyst even said that the UK might not even participate in the World Cup this summer.


British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Monday that Russia was likely responsible for the nerve agent attack, known as Novichok, against double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England.

"Based on the positive identification of this chemical agent by world-leading experts at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down ... the Government has concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei and [his daughter] Yulia Skripal," May said.

"Either this was a direct action by the Russian state against our country, or the Russian government lost control of its potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others," May said, adding that if Moscow doesn't respond by Tuesday night that the UK will consider the attack an "unlawful use of force" on Russia's part.

While it's unclear exactly how London might respond if Russia remains silent, one British Parliamentary Member, John Woodcock, tweeted that he has "urged [May] to consider calling for a collective response from our NATO allies."

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with regional female entrepreneurs ahead of the upcoming International Women's Day during his visit to the Samara bakery and confectionery factory in Samara, Russia March 7, 2018. play

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with regional female entrepreneurs ahead of the upcoming International Women's Day during his visit to the Samara bakery and confectionery factory in Samara, Russia March 7, 2018.

(Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via REUTERS)

NATO released a statement on Monday, saying "the use of any nerve agent is horrendous and completely unacceptable. The UK is a highly valued ally, and this incident is of great concern to NATO."

But a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, Mark Simakovsky, as well as a senior security analyst for Stratfor's Threat Lens, Ben West, both told Business Insider that NATO getting involved is highly unlikely.

Simakovsky and West each said that the UK will most likely expel a number of Russian diplomats, possibly the ambassador in London, and impose sanctions on Russian officials.

This will likely deter the Kremlin from such future actions, and show them "that there will be real costs associated with" these moves, Simakovsky said.

Sanctions "will make it hurt for the Russian government," Simakovsky said, and expelling diplomats will "limit the ability of the Russian government to be effective on the ground."

Simakovsky also said that the UK could work with the EU to tighten sanctions, publicize information about the attack, limit the access of Russian officials and Russians living in or visiting the UK.

"And to be honest," he said, "I could see real consideration for the UK not participating in the World Cup this year."

Sergei Skripal in 2004, in footage obtained by Sky News. play

Sergei Skripal in 2004, in footage obtained by Sky News.

(Sky News)

West also said that Russia is skilled in using "asymmetric warfare — whether meddling in US elections, whether its operations in Ukraine, or before that in the Causcasus' — but not pushing the envelope so far that they get invaded or attacked."

West said that such actions on the part of Russia is an ultimate sign of weakness.

"The whole point of intelligence work is to avoid drama," West said. "You want to be able to operate quietly and under the radar ... whenever you see an intelligence operation ... get so much publicity and it's so obviously connected to one actor, that really shows its weakness."

"If they can't pursue their policies covertly, to me, that shows that things are not good."