This morning the Security Council addresses the use of chemical weapons for the first of two times today.
As we have previously, the United States expresses its unequivocal condemnation of the use of chemical weapons, in Salisbury or anywhere else. We stand firm in defense of the international norm against the use of these horrific weapons. And we stand firm with the British people.
It’s easy to express outrage, of course. We do it every day in this chamber. What is difficult is finding solutions. And today our British friends and colleagues are providing us with a master class on how to stop the spread of chemical weapons.
They are creating accountability for those who use chemical agents and providing vital support for the international norm against the use of these deadly, illegal weapons.
The British government is pursuing accountability for this attack in the only way accountability can truly be accomplished: in accordance with the rule of law.
British investigators have conducted a full and fair investigation of what has been determined to be the attempted killing of Sergey and Yulia Skripal and Detective Nick Bailey. The investigators have linked these crimes with the chemical agent that poisoned Charlie Rowley and killed Dawn Sturgess.
Prime Minister May went into great detail about each step of this investigation. Hundreds of detectives have analyzed thousands of hours of CCTV footage and thousands of documents.
Some things we knew already. British investigators had already concluded Russia was responsible for the exposure of hundreds of people to a deadly agent on the streets of Salisbury.
Now, thanks to the careful, methodical work of the British authorities, no one should have any doubt. It is actually amazing to see the clarity and the undeniability of the results.
The British government has identified two Russian nationals as responsible for the use of a the Novichok nerve agent on British soil and the attempted murder of a British citizen and his daughter.
Critically, the British have also concluded that the two men are officers of the Russian military intelligence service.
This was not, as Prime Minister May said, a “rogue operation.” This was a highly planned, purposely driven attack. The British have the suspects on CCTV from their arrival at Gatwick Airport, to their travel to the vicinity of the Skripals’ house on the day of the attack, and finally their departure from Heathrow back to Moscow.
Every one of us in this room and listening around the world should be chilled to the bone with the findings of this investigation.
As for the subsequent poisoning of Charlie Rowley and the death of Dawn Sturgess, Prime Minister May said it well: “Were these two suspects within our jurisdiction, there would be a clear basis in law for their arrest for murder.”
This is how it’s done. This is how individuals who commit murder and their heinous crimes are exposed. This is how nations that defy the international norms that keep us all safe are held to account. This is how the memories of those injured and killed – and the service of the first responders who cared for them – are honored.
It now falls on us to do our part.
Rather than accept responsibility for its actions, the Russian government has offered only denials and counteraccusations – anything to deflect attention and distract from its guilt.
The Russian denials have followed a familiar script. From Crimea to MH17 to the Donbas to the killing of Litvinenko, the list goes on and on. And the song is always the same. Russia is somehow never behind these incidents.
But no one’s buying it. The most recent British action ensures that Russia doesn’t get away with this brazen attack.
In direct response to Russia’s use of chemical weapons in the Salisbury incident, the United States has announced additional sanctions against Russia. And together with our NATO allies and other partners, 153 Russian officials were expelled around the world in response to the attack on the Skripals on UK soil.
While this incident was in Salisbury, who is to say it couldn’t have happened in Paris or Amsterdam or Addis?
But, we must now help our British friends find the two Russian suspects they have identified and bring them to face justice in the United Kingdom. Better yet, why doesn’t the Russian government turn these two murderers over to British authorities?
We must fight and win the broader battle against impunity for chemical weapons use. This is a day for explanations from Russia and solidarity with our colleagues in the United Kingdom.