St Basil's Cathedral in Red Square. Photo: Alexander Shcherbak / TASS via Getty Images

Senator John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Senator Ben Sasse sent a joint letter to the Trump administration Thursday urging them to coordinate with NATO allies to respond to Russia’s use of a nerve agent in Salisbury, England.

The bottom line: If NATO countries join the U.K. in expelling Russian diplomats from their countries or choose to freeze Russian assets, they would be sending an undeniably clear message to Russia that its shadow operations will not go unpunished among NATO allies.

  • NATO’s secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, said Thursday that attack “happened against a backdrop of a reckless pattern of Russian behavior over many years,” and that Russia is “blurring of the line between peace, crisis and war.” Stoltenberg also said he "fully supports" the need for a response, "there has to be consequences.”
  • The U.S., U.K., France, and Germany also issued a statement Thursday blaming Russia for the attack.
  • The letter is addressed to Mike Pompeo, the current CIA Director and expected incoming Secretary of State, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan.

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Why it matters: It's a precarious moment for the former Soviet republic, where decades of repression and a complete disregard for the coronavirus pandemic threaten to topple "Europe's last dictator." Rights groups said at least one protester was killed and dozens more wounded in a "police crackdown," per AP.