According to Micheal Martin, the Irish Prime Minister, the British response to the Salisbury poisonings was “indulgent” Moscow and showed European complacency regarding the security threat posed Vladimir Putin.
Russian agents tried to kill a former Soviet spy Sergei Skripal using the nerve agent Novichok. This was in Wiltshire, in March 2018.
The attack left Mr Skripal, Yulia Skripal’s daughter and Nick Bailey, a police officer, critically ill. However, all three survived. After handling a bottle believed to contain Novichok, Dawn Sturgess, a British woman, died three months later.
Two GRU agents were accused by the UK of carrying out the attack. The UK responded by exiling 153 Russian diplomats, and imposing limited sanctions that included a boycott of the Russian World Cup.
Twelve years after Alexander Litvinenko was assassinated in London with the radioactive agent Polonium by Russian agents, the attacks took place.
Martin spoke out at the World Economic Forum in Davos about the European response to Ukraine’s invasion. He said that both attacks were evidence of European countries not responding strongly enough to threats from Moscow.
He said, “When you look back on Salisbury or at polonium London… I recently watched documentaries about the first and it struck me that that was a public-health attack on citizens in Europe in the United Kingdom.”
“It was horrible that they were directed at murdering an individual, but there were wider public health threats to many, many people. A few diplomats were sent back and that was about it.
“In hindsight, one can indulge too often. We can be complacent and expect that eventually the better side of a nation will emerge. This cannot be taken for granted.
Martin spoke alongside his counterparts from Slovakia and the Netherlands, who both called for a stronger response by the European Union to Russian aggression.
Sky News spoke to Eduard Heger, the prime minister of Slovakia. He said that his country couldn’t afford Ukraine losing, as it shares a border with. He said, “If Ukraine fails, we are next.”
“If they fail we know Russia will go farther. This is a crucial point. We must also understand that we are all one body, especially within the European Union.
We must support Ukraine, because if they fail it will threaten Poland, Estonia and Lithuania. There are many reasons to support them. The main reason is that they are fighting for our values.”
Mark Rutte is the prime minister of the Netherlands. He said that Russia’s actions should encourage the EU to use its economic power more aggressively in order to ensure that potential partners share its values.
He said, “For too long, the EU has been an playing field, not player.” We need to play a better game. While we are determined to maintain the alliance in Ukraine, it is important that we leverage the strengths of the internal markets.
“We have the strongest marketplace in history, and everyone wants more connection to it. So we must ask ourselves what we want in return.
“We also need a stronger foreign-policy response. That means that the largest countries in the EU, Italy and France, might have to give up some sovereignty over foreign policy. While we will have our own foreign policies as sovereign nations, that is not what we need to harness the collective power and influence of the EU.
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Martin also criticized the UK’s approach towards Brexit, claiming that it had made EU membership more appealing in Ireland.
“The Brexit experience has made us more pro-European because we just looked at Brexit and said no because it was not well planned or prepared. This has not gone down well with Irish public opinion.