Ultimatums, Evidence, and Threats

Theresa May, who believes every problem can be solved by bullying and threatening the law-abiding citizens of her own country, is finding the approach doesn’t work against nuclear-armed shitlords:

Theresa May is expected to announce a series of measures against Russia after it failed to meet her deadline to explain how a nerve agent was used to poison a former double agent in the UK.

Oh. What does the Head Girl do now? Tell teacher?

Moscow said it would not respond to the UK’s ultimatum until it was given access to the chemical substance used in the attack.

A reasonable request, I think. If the police haul you in and say they’ve found a kitchen knife belonging to you in the chest of a dead man, you are entitled to ask to see the knife rather than simply accept their statement that it’s yours. So if the British government is saying Skripal was attacked using a nerve agent that can only have come from a Russian government source, and is demanding answers, I think it’s reasonable the Russians are given a sample. Sure, the Russians may deny it’s theirs but then you are also free to deny the knife in the dead man’s chest is yours also. Being presented with the evidence is an important part of any system of justice.

Even supposing the Russians aren’t playing games, they have an interest in obtaining a sample. If the Russians have “lost control” of a nerve agent as May herself suggested, they might need a sample to see what lab it came from, or where it was stored. We know that the nerve agent Novichok was developed in the Soviet Union, and the US did everything it could to secure stockpiles of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons when the regime collapsed, but it’s certain some stuff fell into the wrong hands. A load of this Novochik was produced in Uzbekistan, not the most secure country in the world. The assertion that this simply must be a Russian government operation because Novichok was used isn’t very strong, in my opinion. There’s also the question of how secret the formula was. Yes, this agent was developed in the Soviet Union but could it have been copied and produced elsewhere? One way to answer these questions is to show the Russians the substance and ask them. Maybe they’ll lie, or maybe they won’t. But why is Britain reluctant to share a sample with them? What are they afraid of? Nobody is asking these questions, and the government and media seem happy to just gloss over the request as if it’s completely unreasonable.

Given some are talking about invoking NATO’s Article 5, I’m not too sure I want to trust the mere word of a spectacularly dim prime minister heading an incompetent, shambolic government presiding over government departments with a habit of lying. Anyone remember Saddam’s WMDs? I’d like to see a third party – perhaps a neutral government like Norway or Switzerland – take a look at the nerve agent and list every possible source, with as much help from the Russians as they can get. It would do no harm to let the Americans have a look at it, too. Basically, I’m deeply unhappy about the British keeping it to themselves and issuing ultimatums. If they have evidence, it must be displayed for all to see.

So, what will May do? The BBC has some suggestions:

Expel senior diplomats, perhaps even the Russian ambassador, Alexander Yakovenko, and known Russian intelligence agents

Okay, and we’ll see some of ours kicked out of Moscow. Standard stuff.

Take some sort of action to bar wealthy Russian oligarchs from accessing their mansions and other luxuries in London, as suggested by Tory MP and House of Commons foreign affairs committee chair Tom Tugendhat. One way this could happen is through the use of Unexplained Wealth Orders, which allow government officials to seize assets including property until they have been properly accounted for

Y’know, there are some of us who were wondering why this was allowed in the first place. I remember when Roman Abramovich first showed up in London and bought Chelsea Football Club. Rather than engage in a sober analysis of where he got the money, the media got all excited about which players he would buy, and nobody in government raised an eyebrow. In fact, the one voice that has consistently asked the British government to not allow dodgy Russians to turn up in London with bags of stolen money and live the high life has been the Russian government.

A boycott of the Fifa World Cup in Russia later this year by officials and dignitaries – a symbolic move that UK allies are unlikely to emulate

Only officials and dignitaries? Would anyone in England even notice?

Pass a British version of the 2012 US Magnitsky act, which punishes Russians involved in corruption and human rights violations with asset freezes and travel bans.

Okay, fair enough. But I suspect once British businessmen start being tossed in Russian prisons for various “violations” this won’t seem like such a good idea.

Taking Russian broadcasters such as RT (formerly Russia Today) off the air – broadcasting regulator Ofcom has said it will “consider the implications for RT’s broadcast licences” after Mrs May speaks on Wednesday.

So we’re going to use what is supposed to be an independent broadcasting regulator as a political weapon. Yes, this is right up Theresa May’s street. And the Russians have their response ready should this happen:

Not a single British media outlet will be working in Russia if London decides to shut down RT broadcasting in the UK, Maria Zakharova, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said.

This will of course include the BBC, which peddles almost as much ignorant, ill-informed, ruling-class propaganda as RT. It will also include the Moscow bureau of The Times, which is fitting given how often its columnists demand RT is shut down.

But this is my favourite:

A string of deaths on UK soil are to be reinvestigated by the police and MI5 after claims of Russian involvement, Home Secretary Amber Rudd says.

Presumably because they didn’t do a proper job the first time around. What other reason could there be?

The deaths that Buzzfeed identified include those of Boris Berezovsky, an outspoken critic of the Kremlin

Mr Berezovsky was found hanged in his bathroom in 2013. Police said a post-mortem showed no sign of a violent struggle.

I have a pal who is involved in the security of Russian oligarchs in London. He thinks the idea that Berezovsky hanged himself is laughable. It is worth noting that Berezovsky had many enemies, not just Putin. He fought a high-profile court battle with Roman Abramovich  between 2011-12 over who owned the assets they’d both looted in the 1990s, which he lost. Ironically, the Russians frequently complained that by granting Berezovsky political asylum, the British government was sheltering a gangster who ought to be facing criminal charges back home. Like I said a few paragraphs ago, the most consistent critic of dodgy Russians being allowed to set up shop in London with no questions asked is the Russian government.

And what is the threat to re-open the Berezovsky case, exactly? The coroner returned an open verdict, saying:

“I am not saying Mr Berezovsky took his own life, I am not saying Mr Berezovsky was unlawfully killed. What I am saying is that the burden of proof sets such a high standard it is impossible for me to say.”

What Amber Rudd seems to be suggesting is that, if the case is re-opened, the finger will point at Putin. Sorry, but is there something we’re not being told? I was under the impression an inquest into someone’s death in Britain was carried out professionally, thoroughly, and competently and the verdict sincere, but it appears they can be revisited and a different result obtained if it suits the political whim of the current Home Secretary. Now I’d not be the slightest bit surprised if Plod has covered up the murder of Boris Berezovsky for one reason or another, but it would be a spectacular own goal to admit this in the course of accusing Russia of malfeasance.

May’s government really isn’t handling this well at all, and is making Britain look almost as dodgy as Russia.


107 thoughts on “Ultimatums, Evidence, and Threats

  1. Late to this, but…

    How handy that a possibly Russian-caused murder in the UK is perfectly timed to take all our (or at least the MSM) minds off events in Telford, among other places.

  2. “Other than a Russian designed nerve agent has been used, what concrete evidence do you have for your assertions?”

    This is exactly my point as well. Obviously it being a Russian made chemical points to Russia, but it only points that way, its not categorical proof. And before we start some beef with Russia (notwithstanding all the idiots going on about Nato and ‘acts of war’) I’d rather like there to be a bit more evidence that currently on show.

    It all smacks of the same ‘dodgy dossier’ attitude from 15 years ago – ‘Look we have all this evidence, its all very secret, you’ll have to take our word for it’.

    Sorry, that don’t cut it any more. If UK politicians are going to drag the UK public into something (God knows what) with Russia, they better provide some more evidence than so far, or they can jog on.

  3. Now the MSM is bricking it over getting gas supplies from Russia cut off, with another cold snap coming.

    Maybe, if it happens, we can move on to fracking with the support of 90% of the people.

    Silver lining and all that!

  4. “Obviously it being a Russian made chemical ….”
    That hasn’t been established either! The only credible claim so far is that the nerve agent used was first discovered by Russia (USSR actually, at the time). Doesn’t tell us where this lot was made though.
    May: “But it only exists in Russia and the formula is secret!” (the claim they are therefore either guilty or negligent).
    How then, did Porton Down identify it? Did they just Google search “Mysterious Nerve Agent” and pick the first match that sounded a bit Russian? Of course not. They know the formula and how to test for it: the claim proves this. Are the Brits in Porton uniquely clever? Has the far better funded US equivalent in Atlanta not done the same? The stuff was invented over 30 years ago FFS, they’d be appallingly negligent if they hadn’t.
    They will know how to test for it, how it degrades in the environment: time, heat, water, sunlight, how quickly contaminated areas can be reoccupied, minimum detection and exposure thresholds, how well protectives are effective, what it’s residue is in biology, and in the environment, and what wastes are leaked in manufacture, potential feedstocks, etc. And they did all that without making some?
    So that’s atleast 3 places in the world that know the formula and have at some time owned some of it for testing. Still claiming nowhere but in Russia? Provably false.
    None of this suggests it wasn’t the Russians., whether rogue elements or not. But if May is going to cut off our gas supplies, she could try and come up with some allegations which are at least plausible, not laugh out loud fabrications, riddled in contradictions and lies.

  5. @Tim the coder: well quite. I was just being generous and assuming the Russian origin as a given. Even given that there still isn’t enough hard evidence (thats being given to us) that this is a Russian State organised operation.

    I do have to say I thought it was rather odd that this all occurred in Salisbury, where Porton Down is literally just round the corner…….a coincidence no doubt, but an odd one nonetheless! Of all the methods available to murder someone, they pick the one that can be immediately identified by the Big Secret Chemicals Lab just round the corner…….

  6. Jim: Funnily enough, exactly the same coincidence struck me, but I chickened out of mentioning it. But it is indeed, highly convenient isn’t it? Of course, one could argue that the gangsterski reponsible never even considered this, it is highly convenient for some of the other motives. Maybe the tinfoil is needed, after all 🙂

    And on a related note, if May is too sensible to endanger our gas and hence electricity supply, there’s not really much she can do to object to the russians really, is there? Beyond some theatricals.

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