Foreign ministers of the G-7 nations issued a joint statement on Tuesday condemning what they called “the confirmed poisoning” of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny.
The statement said Germany, where Mr. Navalny was treated in a Berlin hospital, has concluded that he was “the victim of an attack with a chemical nerve-agent of the ‘Novichok’ group, a substance developed by Russia.” It called on Russia to investigate who is responsible, “bearing in mind Russia’s commitments under the Chemical Weapons Convention.”
All of this is nice sentiment, but as Sean Connery says in “The Untouchables,” “what are you prepared to do?” If it’s nothing, then Vladimir Putin will conclude he will pay no price when opponents turn up dead. There will be no transparent investigation.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel could strike the biggest blow to the Kremlin by canceling her country’s participation in the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia. The U.S. should also be leading here, yet President Trump is showing his trademark passivity toward Mr. Putin. He has talked around the Navalny poisoning when asked, as if he’s waiting for a Kremlin police report.
If Mr. Trump wants Mrs. Merkel to cancel Nord Stream 2, as he says, he can work to coordinate a response that assures Germany of help if she does. Mr. Trump has never cared much about human rights, but this is an issue where rights mesh with U.S. national interests.
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Appeared in the September 9, 2020, print edition.
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