Novichok in Salisbury

British Prime Minister Theresa May has given the order to expel 23 Russian diplomats suspected of involvement in the now infamous March 4 nerve agent attack against former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33.

Why does this matter to anyone outside of Russia or Great Britain?

For starters, Britain has historically been one of the U.S.’s closest allies, even following us into Iraq when virtually the entire world was against it.

The political and diplomatic relationship between the U.S. and the U.K. has helped to shape global politics and economics, the two countries enjoying a legendary “special relationship.”

These days, however, there’s a bit of a wedge between us and our one-time rulers — Russia.

You see, things really started to go south between Great Britain and Russia in 2006 when former KGB and FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned by green tea laced with radioactive isotope polonium-210 on November 1 of that year.

Beyond that, the two countries simply tend to have, well, disagreements about international politics and how to engage with other countries and powers; take the crises in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine, and Syria as just a few examples.

Needless to say, between Litvinenko and the two countries’ shared political history, Britain has adopted a policy of cautious distrust when entering negotiations with Russia.

None of this would be particularly relevant to the U.S. if it weren’t for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and, for that matter, our current president.

As the world over knows, 45 is particularly friendly towards Putin, his government, and his policies. Even now, he refuses to outrightly condemn or criticize his favorite comrade, saying:

“It sounds to me like it would be Russia based on all of the evidence they have. I don’t know if they’ve come to a conclusion. As soon as we get the facts straight, if we agree with them, we will condemn Russia or whoever it may be.” – Time

First of all, he indicates that he may or may not decide to agree with facts, and secondly, he deflects the whole substance of the question by opening up the possibility of condemnation for “whoever it may be.”

Just as the world is familiar with our president’s affection for Russia, Twitter, and cheeseburgers,  he is also infamous for his turbulent relationship with truth and fact.

These two topics of common knowledge – the president’s cozy relationship with Russia and his “alternative facts” – are the possible catalysts for disaster when it comes to the U.S.’s role in NATO.

Virtually the entire purpose of NATO is to ensure mutual security amongst and for its members — the U.K. and the U.S. included

So, what’s the problem?

At this point, May has called for “support” from the United Nations (UN), NATO, the U.S., and the European Union (EU), but didn’t suggest what kind of support she may require.

So, for now at least, there isn’t any specific or urgent expectation for the U.S. to take action of any kind against Russia.

And if an expectation is set?

That will depend entirely on whether or not 45 decides to “agree with {the facts}” that the British investigation turns up — and therein lies the danger.

We are under the leadership of an individual who spills misinformation and blatant lies like a leaky faucet and an administration that is at best willfully ignorant of the president’s actions and claims, and at worst, defends them.

Under virtually any other administration it would be a near-guarantee that the U.S. would formally back Great Britain along with the other NATO members, and, at the very least, impose greater sanctions against Russia.

With 45 at the helm, however, there’s no predicting how things will play out.

It is possible that he could get away with reinventing reality yet again and decide that Russia somehow isn’t to blame; and this, in theory, could potentially cause an unprecedented disruption of NATO procedures and response.

See, the concept of collective defense is core to the organization’s principles, functionality, effectiveness, and, ultimately, its survival.

If one of the largest and most influential social and military powers refuses to respond to the invocation of Article 5, it could cause severe damage to the authority of the organization as well as its effectiveness, despite the fact that there is no explicit requirement for the U.S. to respond to its European allies in any particular manner or time frame.

Regardless of how the U.S. government ultimately decides to respond, the apparent attempted assassination of Skripal and his daughter represents a flagrant and dangerous disregard on the part of the Russian government for the sanctity of human life and their indifference towards due process and international law that may be the catalyst for this century’s Cold War — the next Franz Ferdinand, if  you will.

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