Unsurprisingly to many, the UK government has concluded that it's highly likely Russia was behind the nerve agent attack that left two former Russian spies in a critical condition.

She [Theresa May] said the UK would then consider their response before deciding what action to take, but added: "Should there be no credible response, we will conclude that this action amounts to an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom."

What might this response be, and are the UK likely to actually do anything about it at all?

  • 8
    This all seems a bit "opinion-based". The potential actions are unlimited (ranging from minor sanctions, boycotts and confiscation of funds through to unlimited nuclear strikes). The potential for action is similarly infinite in scope, ranging from none to very.
    – Valorum
    Mar 12, 2018 at 17:58
  • @Valorum You're probably correct - I literally had no idea of what any of the options might be, or even how limited (or not) they may have been in scope.
    – berry120
    Mar 12, 2018 at 18:01
  • 1
    news.sky.com/story/… - Lots of options mentioned here. I suspect it'll be several of these plus some unexpected surprises.
    – Valorum
    Mar 12, 2018 at 18:03
  • 3
    Language note: The “response” in that quote is an expected (or, rather, not expected) explanation by the Russian government.
    – chirlu
    Mar 12, 2018 at 18:15
  • "... these would be set out in the Commons on Wednesday ..." By the time you would accept a guess it will be moot.
    – user9389
    Mar 12, 2018 at 18:58

2 Answers 2


War would be disproportionate - not to mention silly, to say nothing about futile given Russia's nuclear arsenal. So rule that one out.

Economic sanctions would be the next best thing, except that nobody would likely follow. Plus Russia already is the target of economic sanctions and they don't care much about them - if anything some in Russia are grateful about the latter.

So we're probably looking at an official protest of some kind. Which might make a few people at the Kremlin laugh and not much more. Perhaps Putin will quip, again, that he doesn't care - a form of raising his middle finger at the West.

IMO expect little if any reaction beyond a symbolic protest that Putin will laugh about in public.

Edit: the accusation broke out, and the actual term the Kremlin used was "circus show".


A Back in 2006 another Russian exile, Alexander Litvinenko, was killed in London. His tea was laced with Polonium-210. At the inquest into his death, a physics professor testified it could only have been produced by a single closely guarded plant in Russia.

Depending on your opinion, the British government either (a) did nothing because they were powerless or (b) held the matter in abeyance, until 2014 when Russian actions in Ukraine and Syria made drawing attention to Russian wrongdoing politically expedient.

The UK government has some other leverage - the UK is a popular destination for wealthy Russians. The government could stop turning a blind eye to people whose wealth came from foreign corruption, such as by applying new "unexplained wealth order" powers. For example, First Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, Igor Shuvalov owns two flats in London worth £11.44 million - while earning an official salary of £112,000

Of course, Russia has leverage too: 40% of Europe's gas supply comes from Russia. None of that makes it to Britain, but Britain's friends rely on it, and but plenty of Russian coal and diesel makes it to the UK. So there's no appetite in Europe to completely cut off trade with Russia.

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    The government could stop turning a blind eye to people whose wealth came from foreign corruption — and this may be good for russian government, because UK is popular destination for "oligarch" for hiding from russian government. Stopping "turning a blind eye" may cause oligarchs to flee back, and actually they are already trying to negotiate terms of getting back from UK hideout to Russia.
    – user28434
    Mar 13, 2018 at 15:56

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