Update: Just hours after Macron issued the statement below demanding "more proof" and decrying May's "fantasy politics," it appears a phone call with the UK has changed the attitude and Germany, US, and France have now issued a statement that says they agree with UK that "Russia must be responsible" for the UK attack.
The countries are "horrified" at the attack, according to the joint statement, and explain in full-Haley (Colin-Powell-esque) fearmongery, warn the attack "threatens the security of us all" and Russia must explain the UK attack.
As AP reports, the leaders of the United States, France, Germany and Britain say they are united in blaming Russia for a nerve agent attack on former spy Sergei Skripal.
In a rare joint statement, President Donald Trump, President Emmanual Macron, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Theresa May say "there is no plausible alternative explanation" to Russian responsibility in the March 4 attack in England.
They say Russia's failure to respond to Britain's "legitimate request" for an explanation "further underlines its responsibility."
First use of nerve agent in Europe since World War II “threatens all of our security”
The leaders say the use of a chemical weapon is "an assault on U.K. sovereignty" and "a breach of international law."
“We call on Russia to respond to all questions connected with the attack in Salisbury,” particularly those relating to its Novichok program
Britain has expelled 23 Russian diplomats and suspended high-level contacts with Moscow over the incident. Russia is expected to take retaliatory measures soon.
* * *
As we detailed earlier, UK Prime Minister made many of her European allies uneasy (particularly those who, like Germany, rely on Russia for supplies of LNG) on Monday when she accused the Russian government of masterminding an attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal - an attack that left 18 bystanders and one law-enforcement officer hospitalized.
And with Russia threatening to retaliate, France's Emmanuel Macron - hardly a far-right authoritarian - is speaking up and undermining May's push to rally international support for another round of sanctions against Russia, according to RT.
Macron said he wants more proof linking Russia to the attack - which occurred at a shopping center in Salisbury earlier this month. So far, the UK government has essentially admitted that its strongest evidence was the presence at the scene of a nerve agent known to have been developed in Russia. May has threatened sanctions in response to the attack. And on Tuesday, she ordered 23 Russian diplomats to leave the country. The reaction resembled the UK's response to the death via radiation poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko.
Via a spokesman, Macron accused May of engaging in "fantasy politics."
On Wednesday, May announced the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats and the suspension of bilateral talks. May claimed Russia was "culpable" for the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, which amounted to "unlawful use of force against the UK."
However, President Emmanuel Macron’s spokesman suggested May was acting prematurely. "We don’t do fantasy politics. Once the elements are proven then the time will come for decisions to be made, Benjamin Griveaux told a news conference in Paris.
Griveaux added that France was waiting for "definitive conclusions" and evidence that the "facts were completely true” before taking a position. He said that the Salisbury poisoning was a "serious act" against a strategic ally, but France would await evidence of Russian involvement before taking a position.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has asked the UK for a sample of the toxin that it's citing as evidence so that it might be examined by Russia.
Lavrov has also threatened to retaliate by expelling British diplomats. Russia has also refused to respond to the UK's demand that it furnish an explanation for how the nerve agent came to be found at the scene. Did Russia deliberately plan the attack? Or did it simply recklessly lose track of dangerous chemical weapons? The UK said it would give Russia a day to respond, infuriating the Kremlin.
In return, Russia has sternly rebuked the UK for its conduct, cautioning that "one does not give 24 hours notice to a nuclear power."
In addition to refusing to share the toxin, the UK is resisting settling the issue through the proper channels - ie the Organization of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Russia and the UK are both members.
Moscow’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Vassily Nebenzia, said Wednesday that "we demand that material proof be provided of the allegedly found Russian trace in this high-resonance event. Without this, stating that there is incontrovertible truth is not something that we can take into account."
Even Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has also challenged May’s evidence of Russian culpability. Corbyn believes there is not enough proof to conclude Russia was behind the incident.
"The government has access to information and intelligence on this matter which others don’t. However, there is also a history in relation to weapons of mass destruction and intelligence which is problematic, to put it mildly," said Corbys spokesman Seumas Milne. "I think the right approach is to seek the evidence to follow international treaties, particularly in relation to prohibitive chemical weapons."
* * *
However, as one Twitter user pointed out, if Russian President Vladimir Putin really did personally authorize the "wet job" - FSB-speak for assassination - then for a reportedly 'smart guy', he picked a remarkably ill-time moment to carry out such an attack...
This Putin guy is really something: at the height of anti-Russian hysteria in the west, and right before both the Russian election and World Cup, he decides the time is right to execute a spy living openly in the UK since 2010 using a Russian nerve agent.— Tom Slaughter (@tgs31952) March 12, 2018