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Military personnel in protective suits investigate the poisoning of Sergei Skripal on March 11, 2018, in Salisbury, England. Photo: Chris J. Ratcliffe via Getty Images

The poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal in the United Kingdom represents an alarming new attack in Russia’s unconventional war on the West. Skripal’s poisoning follows the mysterious death in December 2016 of another former spy, Oleg Erovinkin, in Moscow, who was later reported to have been a source for the Trump "dossier."

Between the lines: The Kremlin used the nerve agent Novichok as a calling card to signal that it can act with impunity and to scare off anyone contemplating disclosure of sensitive information about Russia's "active measures" against the West.

Why it matters: Not only does this attempted assassination violate all norms of international behavior, it also breaks unwritten rules of spycraft holding that a formal exchange of agents precludes further retribution. In spite of President Trump's predictable equivocation regarding Russia's complicity, the UK and NATO response to this escalation of Russia's hybrid war must be swift and forceful.

Michael Carpenter is senior director of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement and a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia.

Go deeper

Trump sues National Archives, Jan. 6 committee to block records request

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to block the National Archives from releasing White House records to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, citing executive privilege.

Why it matters: It's the latest escalation in Trump's campaign to disrupt the committee's sweeping probe into the circumstances surrounding Jan. 6, including his actions and communications leading up to the Capitol attack.

Obama says Powell exemplified what America "can and should be"

Then-President Obama speaks alongside former Secretary of State Colin Powell during a meeting in the Oval Office in 2010. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Obama called Colin Powell an "exemplary soldier and an exemplary patriot" in a statement honoring the former general following his death from COVID-19 complications on Monday.

Why it matters: Powell, the first Black U.S. secretary of state, was known as a Republican but played a critical role in helping Obama get elected in 2008.

Justice Department asks Supreme Court to block Texas abortion ban

Abortion rights activists rally at the Texas State Capitol on Sept. 11 in Austin, Texas. Photo: Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images

The Justice Department on Monday asked the Supreme Court to temporarily block Texas' near-total ban on abortions while federal courts consider its constitutionality.

The big picture: The court last month allowed the ban to take effect, rejecting an emergency application by abortion-rights groups. The law bars the procedure after cardiac activity is detected, as early as six weeks into pregnancy.