Following the attempted murders in Salisbury and under Foreign Office guidance, the UK’s full retaliatory powers will consist of sending home 23 diplomats from the Russian Embassy and putting the squeeze on funny money (unexplained wealth) coming here from Russia. Perhaps not so much a squeeze as a light tap on the knuckles.
Mrs May might also recall the British ambassador for consultations which at least will allow the latter’s wife to get some shopping in at Harrods before they both fly back to Moscow a week later. Meanwhile, over the next three years the 23 expelled diplomats will fly home and, their substitutes will creep back as drivers, bin men and cooks.
These familiar Foreign Office dance steps will not impress Vladimir Putin who may be tempted to expel the British Ambassador in a show of strength. The Foreign Office whose real job often seems to be to protect the interests of foreign governments over that of Britain citizens abroad, viz Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe still rotting in a Persian jail, will not like that. It will mean fewer postings for their staff, fewer ambassadorial limousines, fewer occasions to hobnob with the powerful.
Mrs May should boot out the Russian Ambassador forthwith. It’s not likely; while she was Home Secretary she showed herself to be a prisoner of her senior civil servants, she seems to be following line by line briefings from Whitehall on Brexit, and now the same from the Foreign Office on Russia.