The Salisbury poisoning case and German-Russian relations: ambiguity and ambivalence

Steve Wood, Otto Henke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Governments of Western democracies responded quickly to the poisoning—allegedly by agents of the Russian state—of former Soviet spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter in Salisbury, UK in March 2018. Germany's response was not as categorically reproachful and drew attention to its relationship with Vladimir Putin's Russia more generally. It expelled four Russian diplomats and has applied sanctions since Russia's annexation of Crimea, yet continues with other bilateral trade and investment, significantly in the energy sector, and it has been hesitant about unconditionally rebuking aggressive Russian behaviour. A complex mix of domestic politics and international relations, historical memory, economic incentives, and political psychology in the age of the internet and ‘fake news’ serve to influence German attitudes toward Russia. A contest between Putin critics and sympathisers sharpens in a polity in which the majority are ambivalent. In the aftermath of the Skripal affair, some rethinking of an ambiguous policy is occurring at high levels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)702-708
Number of pages7
JournalPolitical Quarterly
Issue number4
Early online date21 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


  • Germany
  • Russia
  • United Kingdom
  • Skripal case
  • Russlandversteher
  • hybrid warfare


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