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Expert Voices

Russian poisoning of ex-spy a dangerous escalation

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.

Khorri Atkinson 8 hours ago
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NYT: Mueller witness tried to influence White House on Gulf states

Interviews and previously undisclosed documents revealed that a witness in Robert Mueller's probe had worked for over a year to convert a Republican fundraiser into a White House influencer to help usher in deals on behalf of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the New York Times reports.

The backdrop: George Nader, a political adviser of the U.A.E. and Elliott Broidy, the RNC's deputy finance chair, reportedly urged the White House to dismiss Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's support of combative approaches to Iran and Qatar. In another case, Nader promised Broidy over a $1 billion in contracts for his private security company in exchange for deals.

David Philips 10 hours ago
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Expert Voices

Russian obstruction on Syria at UN Security Council demands response

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein speaking during a press conference at the UN Offices in Geneva.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini / AFP via Getty Images

Russia used a procedural vote on Monday to prevent UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein from presenting on human rights conditions in Syria to the UN Security Council (UNSC).

Why it matters: To date, Russia has vetoed nine resolutions aimed at intensifying pressure on Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, moves that not only counter U.S. interests but undermine the international system.