Vladimir Sticks the Putin: What Conflict Over Poisoned Spy Could Mean for UK-Russia Relations

Vladimir Putin

Credit: Kremlin.ru

When Winston Churchill was questioned about Great Britain’s involvement in World War II, he delivered the tub-thumping, chest pounding speech that featured the immortal lines ‘we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds’; and it’s a powerful message that gets the patriotic and the psychotic slightly wet in and around the eyes to this very day.

It’s a powerful message, designed to rally the people of this fine land and act as a stark warning to Germany and their allies that we were ready to meet fire with fire on the beaches of France and elsewhere.

Churchill’s words were completely knocked out of the park this week by the powerful message conveyed by Gavin Williamson, the UK’s defence secretary, in retaliation to Russia:

“Russia should go away. It should shut up.”

Yes, you read that correctly. The man designated with the task of deciding how our defence budget is spent, and ensuring our troops are adequately trained and supplied, did tell a piece of land-locked earth to ‘go away’ and ‘shut up’, like an eight-year-old in a school playground.

Concerned? You should be.

Of course, there has been a serious souring of relations between the UK and Russia in the wake of the alleged poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, in which a ‘military grade nerve agent’ were used.

Theresa May had promised strong action in retaliation, and has so far expelled 23 Russian diplomats from the country with more sanctions expected to follow.

So far the PR team of Vladimir Putin has denied involvement in the poisoning, and has hit out at our ‘unacceptable provocations’. They too have threatened further reprisals.

All of which has left UK-Russia relations on a knife edge, and it’s a fall out which could further sour our relationship with the European Union in the wake of Brexit.

At least Williamson hasn’t stoked the fires too badly with his wet lettuce, almost Captain Pike-esque retort. “It’s absolutely atrocious and outrageous what Russia did in Salisbury we’ve responded to that. Frankly, Russia should go away – it should shut up,” are the words that will surely see Putin and co quaking in their Ugg boots.

They have since responded with some carefully chosen words of their own, and you have to say that in the ‘burn’ stakes it’s very much Russia 1 England 0. “The market wench talk that British defence secretary Gavin Williamson resorted to reflects his extreme intellectual impotency,” was the official statement coming out of Russia on Thursday.

A Very Cold War

While there is an element of surreal immaturity to the war of words that has broken out this week, be under no illusion as to how serious the matter in hand is here.

The UK has made a number of serious allegations against Russia without formal proof of culpability, and that is something that Putin and his advisors are unlikely to stand for.

Indeed, Konstantin Kosachyov, who is the chairman of the upper house’s International Relations committee and looks like a caricature of a Bond villain, said that a ‘hostile’ Britain was angling for war against his country. “Massive aggression has been organised against Russia with the use of tools of informational, political and economic force. And with the preparation of public opinion for the possibility of the use of military force,” were his badly-translated and yet slightly sinister words.

Williamson himself eluded to the military threat posed by Russia, claiming that the country, despite being under economic pressure, continues to invest in arms, including ‘surface-to-air missiles, T-90 tanks, advanced submarines, long-range ballistic missiles, strategic bombers and nuclear systems.’

For everyone’s sake it would be nice if this all blew over – perhaps it will with the Beast from the East weather pattern expected to return from Eastern Europe this weekend, and naturally we remain a million miles from a repeat of the Cold War, but any possible conflict with Russia will hark back to those dark times.

There are other sanctions that the Russians can employ too, including the very real possibility that the country could pull the plug on its gas supplies to the UK or at least hike up their price.

The Russian firm Gazprom confirmed that it sold more than 16 billion cubic metres of gas to the UK in 2017, which is roughly 20% of our total supply. And when quizzed on the matter, the prime minister suggested that a new supply deal was being sought. “When we are looking to our gas supplies, we are indeed looking to other countries,” she said.

The fate that has befallen Skripal and his daughter is a tragedy, and we can only hope they make a full recovery. A conflict with Russia is of benefit to nobody, however.