Germany’s move not only signaled solidarity with London, but also suggested the incoming foreign minister, Heiko Maas, may be more hawkish toward Moscow than his predecessor.
“The attack in Salisbury shook us all in the European Union,” Mr. Maas said. “For the first time since the end of World War II, a chemical war agent was used in the middle of Europe.”
Mr. Maas said Germany did not take the decision “flippantly.”
“But the fact and indications point to Russia. The Russian government has so far not answered any of the open questions and has shown no readiness to play a constructive role in solving this attack,” he said.
Mr. Trump’s decision to join a united front against Russia came amid a personnel churn in the White House as numerous aides, including his national security adviser, Army Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, have said they will leave the administration. Last month, Mr. McMaster called evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election “incontrovertible.”
His words angered the president, who remains anxious over the continued investigation into his campaign’s contact with Russian officials. Mr. Trump publicly rebuked General McMaster on Twitter for forgetting “to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems,” referring to his Democratic election opponent, Hillary Clinton.
The harsher stance on Russia will also prove to be an early test of the ideological compatibility of the president’s newly revamped national security team. Last week, Mr. Trump announced that he would replaceGeneral McMaster with John R. Bolton, long a vocal critic of Mr. Putin who has called Russian interference in the 2016 election “a true act of war.” Mike Pompeo, the nominee for secretary of state, has been quieter with his criticisms.
And then there is the president himself, whose public declarations have repeatedly found themselves in conflict with the policy decisions rolled out in his White House. Brian McKeon, who served as a chief of staff of the national security counsel under President Barack Obama, said the staff disruptions were sure to play out if the Trump administration was considering taking further action against Russia.
“Bolton’s worldview is that there should be more” measures, including sanctions, Mr. McKeon said. “I don’t think that’s the president’s view.”