Theresa May Expels Russian Diplomats. But Now Comes the Hard Part.

Few world leaders have looked weaker lately than Theresa May, the British prime minister. Yet in Parliament on Wednesday, she vowed to stand tough in the escalating confrontation with Russia over the use of a nerve agent to poison one of its former spies on British soil.

In language reminiscent of the Cold War, Mrs. May — until recently, accused at home of not being hard enough on Moscow — expelled 23 Russians she said were spies, promised a crackdown on corrupt Russians and the money they funnel into Britain, and called off high-level contacts between the two governments.

Suddenly, she is the most forceful Western leader in denouncing the government of President Vladimir V. Putin, which she portrayed this week as a malevolent and lawless force.

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