The Skripal nerve agent attack exposes Britain's isolation

Add a new word to your vocabulary: Novichok. It’s a chemical weapon developed in the Soviet Union in the late 1980s , a nerve agent reportedly 10 times more potent than its better-known predecessors.

Larger doses may lead to immediate paralysis of the entire nervous system; that’s what the British government now believes happened  to Sergei Skripal, a Russian defense intelligence officer who spied for Britain, as well as his daughter, Yulia, when they were exposed to Novichok in Salisbury, a provincial English market town best known for its lovely cathedral.

The contrast between the sinister Russian poison and the middle-class, middle-England backdrop of Salisbury — also home to a well-preserved copy of Magna Carta, the foundational document of the British legal system — is part of what has made the story so sensational in the United Kingdom.

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