It was no surprise that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin was reelected for another six years, as there is no doubt that the election was truly rigged.
With the brazen attempted nerve agent murder of a former GRU colonel and defector in the United Kingdom and other outrageous acts around the world, the former KGB officer and Russian president is due for a bit of payback, says Washington Post columnist David Ignatius (seen in the below photo), author of The Quantum Spy and other fine spy thrillers.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told NBC's Megyn Kelly this month that in using power, you "must be ready to go all the way to achieve the goals." Now, it seems, Putin has gone all the way too far.
Putin's aggressive use of covert action to settle scores hit an international tripwire after the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in the quiet British cathedral town of Salisbury. An outraged Britain was joined Thursday by France, Germany and America in condemning the murderous use of the banned Soviet-era toxin known as Novichok.
A joint statement denounced the attack as "the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War" and called it "a breach of international law" that comes "against the background of a pattern of earlier irresponsible Russian behavior." That strong language warrants action by NATO and the U.N..
The Trump administration, after a year of mealy-mouthed, temporizing statements, also announced sanctions Thursday against Russia's "malicious cyberattacks." The sanctions, targeting five Russian organizations and 19 people, will have little practical effect beyond those already in place. What matters is that President Trump finally seems to have ended his dubious defense of Putin. "It certainly looks like the Russians were behind it," he said of the poisoning. "We're taking it very seriously."
So how can the U.S. and its closest allies alter Putin's behavior, if they're truly serious about holding Russia to account? The answer, say several former senior CIA officials, is to use America's network of alliances to put Russia under strain. Putin has been playing a weak hand well, but the high cards remain in Western hands.
Russia's greatest vulnerability is its dependence on sales of oil and gas. Here, the U.S. is uniquely positioned for payback.
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Note: My Q&A with David Ignatius will appear in the upcoming issue of Counterterrorism magazine.