In a series of coordinated announcements on Thursday, Britain, the Netherlands, and the U.S. accused the Russian GRU intelligence service of multiple cyberattacks. But the focus here isn't on deterring the GRU per se. Instead, the British want to ensure that Russia continues to face a stringent sanctions regime.
By illuminating the scale of GRU operations, Britain wants to prove to the world that Vladimir Putin's government is unconcerned with international norms. In turn, it hopes the international community will continue to support and maintain the sanctions regime facing Putin.
Believe it or not, various interests in the European Union want to roll back the sanctions that were imposed on Russia following its 2014 incursion into Ukraine. Austria and Italy are leading these efforts, but many other EU members are seeing increasing sympathy for the idea, including France and Germany. The sanctions regime is also relevant in influencing states like India, Egypt, and Vietnam against continuing to buy Russian arms.
That said, there is little belief that these announcements will end aggressive Russian cyberoperations. On the contrary, it is expected that Putin will escalate his aggression so as to try and deter the West from escalating against him. Putin's calculus is that absent the U.S., Britain, the Baltic states, Poland, and the Netherlands, there is little appetite in NATO for continuing escalation with Moscow.
But I think that Putin might be disappointed here. The Russian leader grossly miscalculated in using a persistent nerve agent to try and assassinate Sergei Skripal on British soil. Alongside the further death of an innocent British citizen who found the nerve agent delivery system (hidden in a perfume bottle) and sprayed herself, the Skripal operation caused massive anger in London. More importantly, the measure of Putin's callousness alarmed senior officials in Washington such as the president's national security adviser, John Bolton. They have recognized that Putin is not adequately deterred. In turn, and with the backdrop of Putin's antics in Syria and North Korea, NATO's kingmakers are determined to make the increase of pressure on Russia a primary concern. In addition, behind the scenes, active western intelligence constraint of Russian intelligence operations; especially against the GRU, is growing.
Put simply, don't expect any thaw in Western-Russian relations anytime soon.