(Bloomberg) -- The revelation that former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, both critically ill in a British hospital, were attacked with a nerve agent makes it probable that they are victims of action by a state body.
But which state, and which body? As the head of Europol observed, “there are not 101 likely offenders.”
Skripal sold the identities of Russian agents to Britain’s MI6. A U.K. inquiry said Russians were almost certainly behind the 2006 poisoning in London -- with polonium -- of Alexander Litvinenko, another ex-spy, so they’re not above such a move.
Russian elections are days away, and, as President Vladimir Putin’s critics suggest, a demonstration that his country’s enemies are never beyond his reach plays to his appeal.
Of course, as with Litvinenko, or recent episodes of electoral interference, or the 2014 downing of flight MH-17, Russia rejects this suggestion. They’ve been operating a policy you might call implausible deniability. Putin's spokesman says he has no information about the attack and that Russia is prepared to help with the "tragic situation."
If the British government wants to turn assumptions into accusations it needs proof -- hence the hundreds of detectives racing to piece the case together. But even if it finds it, what then? If Britain wants to face down Putin, it may have to do better than its current threat, that its officials won’t attend the soccer World Cup in Russia.
Softening on tariffs? | President Donald Trump could exempt some nations when he formalizes steel and aluminum tariffs amid threats of retaliation from U.S. trading partners and opposition from his own party. The administration will initially exclude Canada and Mexico, pending agreement an updated North American Free Trade Agreement. Other U.S. allies could also seek similar treatment, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said.
Trigger lock | A new crop of Democratic congressional candidates is campaigning on what’s been a difficult topic for the party, especially in rural areas: gun control. Recruiting U.S. military veterans who say new steps must be taken to prevent weapons of war from being used in domestic shootings is a key part of Democrats’ strategy in this year’s elections. "The assault weapons our teams used in Iraq have no place on the streets,” says Democrat Maura Sullivan, a Marine Corps veteran running in a New Hampshire district.
North Korean piggy bank | Kim Jong Un’s sudden enthusiasm for talks on his nuclear program coincided with a sharp drop in his nation’s foreign currency reserves. While measures of Pyongyang’s savings are sketchy, an analyst affiliated with the government in Seoul estimated North Korea’s foreign currency reserves at about $4 billion to $5 billion, compared with $395 billion for South Korea.
Xi's risky move | Chinese President Xi Jinping's move to extend his time in power isn’t without peril. While his new organizational structure brings more efficiency in the short term, Xi and his Communist party face more blame if policies backfire, economic growth stalls or there is a collapse in the financial system.
Chasing votes | The euroskeptic League is reaching out to dissidents from the shattered Democratic Party as it tries to piece together a majority in Italy. As John Follain reports, the center-left PD suffered its worst ever election result last Sunday and is split over whether to support either of the unpalatable options for leading the next government.
And finally… #MeToo has been a watershed moment in fight against sexual abuse, but our compilation of stories about women in the workplace shows no such breakthrough in the boardrooms. We also invite you view a collection of photography from women around the globe. While female photographers are, above all, photographers, their work, and their access to their subjects, can bear a distinctive mark.
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