Secretary of State Rex Tillerson blasted Russia on Monday over an alleged nerve agent attack in Britain which left a former Russian spy and his daughter extremely sick. Tillerson went further than the White House and directly accused the Kremlin of being “an irresponsible force of instability in the world.”
He went on to say that the U.S. will stand “in solidarity” with the UK which also blames Moscow for the attack. The attempted murder of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia is believed to have been conducted by Russia, British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Monday.
During Monday’s briefing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not endorse the British government’s de facto position that Russia was responsible for the attack, but the secretary of state decided to take a much harsher tone saying the attack was a “really egregious act.”
Skripal, a one-time Russian military intelligence officer, was an informant for British intelligence services around the turn of the century. He and his daughter were most likely poisoned near Skripal’s home in Salisbury using a “military grade” nerve agent “of a type developed by Russia,” May pointed out.
Tillerson issued a statement late on Monday in which he noted that the United States has “full confidence” in the British assessment that Russia was “likely responsible.”
“There is never a justification for this type of attack — the attempted murder of a private citizen on the soil of a sovereign nation — and we are outraged that Russia appears to have again engaged in such behavior,” Tillerson said in the statement. “From Ukraine to Syria — and now the UK — Russia continues to be an irresponsible force of instability in the world, acting with open disregard for the sovereignty of other states and the life of their citizens.”
He added that those who are responsible for the attack must face “appropriately serious consequences.” His remarks show once again the Trump administration’s struggle to coordinate its overall foreign policy message. While Tillerson openly criticizes Russia, the President seems to be reluctant to do so as well.