So it was Russia, in some form. What now?

At the time of writing, this is breaking news:

Former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned by a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia, Theresa May has told MPs.

The PM said it was “highly likely” Russia was responsible for the Salisbury attack.

The Foreign Office summoned Russia’s ambassador to provide an explanation.

Mrs May said if there is no “credible response” by the end of Tuesday, the UK would conclude there has been an “unlawful use of force” by Moscow.

The chemical used in the attack, the PM said, has been identified as one of a group of nerve agents known as Novichok.

Mrs May said: “Either this was a direct action by the Russian state against our country, or the Russian government lost control of its potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.”

I’d say she’s got the two options narrowed down correctly. She’s also well within her rights to summon the Russian ambassador and demand an explanation. It’s going to be interesting what the Russians say: this isn’t something they can just fob off in their usual manner.

My guess is the latter of the two scenarios is the more likely. I simply can’t think of a credible theory that would have the Russian government trying to knock off this Skirpal chap at all, let alone using a nerve agent which points the finger straight at them, and then botching the job. So I think there are rogue elements in Russia, quite possibly hostile to Putin and much more hardline than he, who have access to this agent and firstly bear a grudge against Skirpal for his treachery, but who also want to ensure there is no improvement in relations between Russia and the west. The Russian economy is not in good shape; perhaps Putin – or one of his advisers – has been murmuring about concessions over Crimea in return for an easing of sanctions, or backing down in some other manner. Okay, the Crimea one is unlikely: your average Russian is pretty committed to keeping hold of Crimea, far more than they care about Syria for example. But something along these lines is at least a believable scenario, albeit a rather frightening one.

However, if the Russians have rogue elements of their security forces running amok, don’t expect Putin to admit it. For someone in Putin’s position to publicly concede he’s lost control in some manner would be suicide. Here’s a sobering thought though, probably not one entertained by those demanding Britain (and America) takes action against Putin: supposing he’s replaced by someone worse, someone who didn’t think much about knocking off former spies with nerve agents in a Salisbury pub? That’s not to say we shouldn’t take action, but we need to think through the consequences. In this regard, I think we can safely ignore anything most of the media has to say over the coming days, as well as Corbyn and his idiotic shadow cabinet.

A lot of people are already demanding Trump says something in support of Britain over this issue, but I’m interested to hear what the EU and European leaders say. Which way will Germany jump, especially if further sanctions are mooted? I’m half-expecting Merkel to mumble a bit before doing whatever is good for Siemens at al, with the rest of the EU falling in behind her. Probably the only ones who will object are the Baltic States, but it’s high time they learned when it comes to the EU and Russia, they’re on their own – just like Britain.

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18 thoughts on “So it was Russia, in some form. What now?

  1. It all depends then on the reaction from Putin then? if it doesn’t answer our questions then what? we were fearless once and brexit showed some residual spine so perhaps we can at least show that this is an attack on all of us.

  2. “this isn’t something they can just fob off in their usual manner”

    Why not? I’m pretty sure this is exactly what they are going to do. How is Skripal’s case worse than Litvinenko’s? Britain chose what was good for Siemens BP then.

    If the Scotland Yard manages to identify the killer(s), they will traditionally be appointed to the Russian “parliament”. That’s about it.

  3. Well I remain unconvinced and none of my original questions have yet been answered. If this poison was as strong as they say it is and it probably is, how come they lived? How come they waited 8 years to whack him, he wasn’t in hiding, why now and why his daughter?

    Also other than the circumstantial inquiry finding that Putin “probably” approved the Litvinenko assassination what exactly is Russia’s record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations that May has mentioned. Rules of evidence and all that.

    She needs to sex up the dossier a bit.

  4. Britain chose what was good for …BP then.

    Whatever Britain did or didn’t do, it had nothing to do with BP. Probably the only company the British government goes into bat for is BAe.

  5. what exactly is Russia’s record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations that May has mentioned. Rules of evidence and all that.

    They have a habit of bumping off Chechen terrorists overseas.

  6. They have a habit of bumping off Chechen terrorists overseas.

    They just walk up to those guys and shoot them in the face, though. Their plots in the UK use exotic methods like Polonium and a special Russian type of nerve gas that lets people easily tie the crime to Russia. It’s a little odd. Do they want everyone to know that they’re responsible for these UK assassinations? If so, why?

  7. Even if Putin did it personally, Britain is impotent, and Putin knows it. The British public can barely stomach dropping bombs on another country from afar. The whole country is run by pathetic, small-minded dweebs who can’t even handle mean tweets. Theresa May can’t even follow through against the EU with what she says. The idea that these same people will be able to do anything to Russia is laughable.

  8. “A lot of people are already demanding Trump says something in support of Britain over this issue . . . “

    The Britain that has now denied entry to, and jailed, several people for being associated with “right wing organizations”, of which Trump’s administration is one? The Britain that would likely deny Trump himself entry?

    I’m thinking that Britain is on its own for this one. You might be surprised at the strength of the negative reactions here to your recent border detentions. Frankly, it appears that your Tory government is coming down squarely on Hillary’s side, and expecting Trump to say something just in general support of an ally seems presumptuous when the ally is being particularly insulting.

  9. @jerry

    “Their plots in the UK use exotic methods like Polonium and a special Russian type of nerve gas that lets people easily tie the crime to Russia. It’s a little odd.”

    Unless they got the idea from Strikeback Retribution Episode 4 “She discovers that Zaryn is in fact Karim Markov, a Russian scientist who allegedly killed his colleagues with Novichok, a nerve agent they invented.”

    I can’t wait until Phil comes on here and tells us that anyone with a homemade chemistry set can brew this stuff up as well.

    And as for Polonium the dose that killed Arraft was rumoured to have come from Israel’s Dimona reactor. But if it was Mossad that done this job, they would have just shot the pair of them in the head and accidently dropped the Kalashnikov on the ground as they made their getaway.

  10. Told you! It’s Putin, and the most important job for him is to divide the Europeans. There is no need for a political union to exist (the EU) for there to be a meeting of minds – the British led boycott of Iran after 1953 led to a European wide boycott. Putin wants Europeans at one another’s throats. Divide and conquer – it’s the oldest game in the book.

  11. @Bardon,

    Nope – I could not make nerve agent with my Merit Chemistry set I got for Christmas when I was 12 or thereabouts. However, nerve agent is an organophosphate and the original nerve agents were developed in Germany by BASF as an insecticide. The large glass houses that the continentals use to produce market produce are ideal breeding grounds for aphids and other agricultural pests. Very difficult to get rid of as the greenhouses are warm and predator free all year round. Sarin and Tabun (known to this day as G Agents – G for German) were produced to kill off the aphids. They also killed off a few of the gardeners too which is how they discovered their lethal properties. The Germans never used nerve agents during WW2 as they were convinced that the Allies had them too (we didn’t) because they were so easy to manufacture. If you want, I can privately e-mail you on how to produce the stuff – I won’t publish it here in an open forum.

    Note that in this Wikipedia article, the family of Novichock agents include organophosphate insecticides:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novichok_agent

    However, I agree with the opinions voiced above that the attempted assassination is so Russian that they might as well have had the Red Army marching band playing Katushka as the spy was targeted and leaving copies of Isvestia, Pravda and the packaging from the nerve agent at the scene, together with a signed letter from Putin saying “Take that, you bar steward”.

    If I did want to assassinate someone using nerve agent (it is a lot easier to simply shoot or stab him in “a robbery gone wrong” – most such crimes are not solved) then I would select an older, more generic nerve agent such as Tabun, Sarin, Soman or similar that had more than adequate lethality rather than the extremely powerful Novichok agent. That way, it would not have left a great big flashing neon sign saying RUSSIA!!!!!! that the Novichok agent would. Indeed, a quick squirt of Hydrogen Cyanide gas into their face would mimic a heart attack (not unlikely in an older man and is a well known method of getting rid of people unobtrusively) and would leave little evidence of deliberate killing. It is a recognised and frequently used in the past method.

    If the nerve agent has been positively identified as Novichok then why use the latest, still secret and most easily traced back to Russia unless a very clear message was intended? And of this was the case, why isn’t Russia saying “Yes. We ALWAYS hunt down traitors and execute them”. It would serve both as revenge and a warning to other traitors.

    For me, the jury is still out.

  12. Even if Putin did it personally, Britain is impotent, and Putin knows it.

    Yes. I expect tomorrow we’ll be forced to listen to another of May’s grating speeches telling media companies they need to “crack down” on Russian accounts. I don’t think there’s a single problem that woman has encountered in the last year she doesn’t think can be solved by restricting the internet to ordinary people. This is her hammer, and everything looks like a nail.

  13. I’m thinking that Britain is on its own for this one. You might be surprised at the strength of the negative reactions here to your recent border detentions. Frankly, it appears that your Tory government is coming down squarely on Hillary’s side, and expecting Trump to say something just in general support of an ally seems presumptuous when the ally is being particularly insulting.

    I fully agree. See this morning’s post.

  14. Let’s face it, if Putin or the Russian Security Forces really wanted Skripal dead, he’d be dead.

  15. Thanks Phil, very much appreciated.

    “If I did want to assassinate someone using nerve agent (then I would select an oldermore generic nerve agent such as Tabun, Sarin, Soman or similar that had more than adequate lethality rather than the extremely powerful Novichok agent.”

    The lethality of the particular brand of Novichok that they poured on their tucker must have past is shelf life judging by its ineffectiveness.

    “Indeed, a quick squirt of Hydrogen Cyanide gas into their face would mimic a heart attack”

    Or the good old CIA Heart Attack Gun!

    “For me, the jury is still out.”

    Bit early for a jury all we got is May saying that it’s “highly likely”, which is code for they got nothing. And why the rush, after Grenfell they called for cool heads and let the inquiry investigate the evidence, and this was a far higher body count of British citizens why does this not apply here for a zero body count of questionable fole?

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