The latest scandal in the pan-western campaign against Russia is the illness of the former British spy of Russian origin, Sergey Skripal. It is said by the UK government that Skripal was poisoned by a nerve agent originally developed in the Soviet Union called Novichok. While the fact that Novichok was originally invented in the Soviet Union is at this time, the only “evidence” cited by a UK government blaming the Russian government for Skripal’s illness, the formula for Novichok has long been de-classified and the general formula to make Novichok is now widely known in global chemical agent engineering circles.
Thus, one can determine that the only thing London is saying beyond totally hyperbolic stereotyping of “evil Russians” is that an agent whose formula is internationally known, was originally developed in the USSR several decades ago. Another import flaw in the “blame Russia” logic, is that the single country that developed Novichok, the USSR no longer exists. Instead, 15 countries have existed since 1991, which comprised the former USSR, of which the Russian Federation is only one.
While the western bloc of the early 1990s was eager to break up the USSR and as recently western meddling in Ukraine demonstrates, are all too keen to break such nations away from Moscow as much as possible, even in the aftermath of the collapse of the USSR, these same western nations feign ignorance when it comes to understanding that an ethnic Russian, Russian speaker or self-identified Russian, needn’t necessarily be a citizen of the Russian Federation in a post-Soviet world.
This is indeed what Russian President Vladimir Putin told American television host Megyn Kelly regarding the American “election meddling” issue. Putin stated,
“So what if they’re Russians?” There are 146 million Russians. … I couldn’t care less. … They do not represent the interests of the Russian state. Maybe they’re not even Russians. Maybe they’re Ukrainians, Tatars, Jews, just with Russian citizenship. Even that needs to be checked. Maybe they have dual citizenship. Or maybe a green card. Maybe it was the Americans who paid them for this work. How do you know? I don’t know”.
The point that Putin was making is clear enough to anyone who knows the difference between an ethnic Russian, former Soviet citizen, Russian expat and Russian speaking non-Russian, with or without Russian citizenship. If all it takes to convince the US media that “Russians meddled in the 2016 election”, is the ability of accused individuals to speak Russian, this is an incredibly tenuous connection to the Russian state. In this sense, if an ethnic Russian, living in Russia and with Russian citizenship did something of his own volition without the government’s knowledge or permission, this would not be “Russian meddling” but the Russian version of Edward Snowden. Taking things a step further, if a Russian speaking Ukrainian citizen living in New Jersey or a Russian speaking Jew living in Tel Aviv did something to “meddle” in the US election, such an individual’s activity does not even have a connection to Russian soil, let alone to the jurisdiction of Russian authorities. This is all Vladimir Putin was saying.
In the wider English speaking world, there are people who speak English in Australia and then move to Sweden and then Britain, like Julian Assange. This does not mean that their online activities have anything to do with the United States. In the case of Assange, the opposite is true.
Likewise, because the Russian speaking world has always been diverse and because today, Russians live in an ever diverse set of nations, this means that Russian speakers with any combination of citizenship(s) are as capable of doing with the web what the English speaking, German and Finnish citizen Kim Dotcom is capable of doing from his current home in New Zealand.
The same logic can be applied to tracing technological components, military hardware or indeed chemicals originally manufactured in the USSR. Since the formula to make Novichok is widely known even outside of the former USSR, one could imagine that scientists who are old enough to have worked in the USSR and still live in the former USSR, would if anything be even more adept at producing Novichok than those elsewhere.
Rather than simply blame the Russian Federation based on negative stereotypes about Russia, if one is going to point to a country that can be almost certainly deduced to be home to some scientists that can easily produce Novichok, one should consider which such country’s regime or nationalistic minded citizens might posses a convincing motive to infect Sergey Skripal with Novichok.
Of all the post-Soviet countries that do not have such a motive, this country is clearly the Russian Federation. Russia is already under intense scrutiny from the west and has always been more interested in attempts at a new detente than in drawing negative attention to itself. Days before a Russian Presidential election and a few short months prior to the Football World Cup in Russia, Moscow’s leaders have even more reason not to create a hostile environment with European countries who will be participating in the World Cup.
Even without hard evidence, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has condemned Russia over the Skripal incident and said that it will “certainly trigger a response”. Meanwhile members of the UK Parliament have suggested banning Russia from the international SWIFT banking system, further sanctions, banning the broadcaster RT and some are even fanning the flames of some sort of military response.
Russia’s leaders knows full well that countries like the US and UK will jump at the chance to inflect further economic and political harm to the country and thus, there is no logical motive for Russia to kill a man of apparently little geopolitical relevance to anyone, while knowing that doing so could and would elicit negative consequences for Russia.
While Russia has no desire to trigger the “response” that Tillerson and UK politicians have described, other countries could well be neutral on the matter, while one post-Soviet regime openly boasts about seeking to inflect suffering on Russia. This regime is the Ukrainian one.
It’s an open secret that Ukrainian regime leaders have grown upset that for the west, Ukrainian anti-Russian politics is a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. For the west, Ukrainian fascism, the kind of which was brought to power in the coup of 2014, is just one of many tools in the anti-Russian toolkit. The regime cannot yet come to grips with the fact that while western leaders are happy to use Ukraine as a means of provoking Russia, they have little interest in investing in a Ukrainian state that is fast becoming a corrupt cold weather Somalia without the strategically located coastline.
Failing to convince economically lethargic European leaders to invest in their economic basket case and failing to galvanise Donald Trump in respect of repeating the pro-Ukrainian statements of Barack Obama, Kiev clearly has a motive to do anything possible to arouse further anti-Russian sentiments in the west.
Political assassinations in Ukraine are the new norm and when it comes to characteristics of aggression and fanaticism, it is hard to top the collective violent psychosis of the Ukrainian regime. Is this direct evidence that Ukraine was involved in the illness of Sergey Skripal? No it is not. But crucially, it is one more piece of indirect evidence than that which is currently being levelled against Russia. Since the fact that the USSR created Novichok is nothing more than red herring, the only evidence relating to Skripal that can be deduced based on the information known to the public, is motive. When it comes to motive, Ukraine has one and Russia does not- Russia in fact has the clear opposite of a motive. It is in Russia’s interests not to do something that is strategically useless but one that would clearly arouse further hostility toward Russia in the west.
Of course, there may be information that the US or UK governments have that they are not telling the public, but this too defies logic. Even during the run-up to the illegal Iraq war, Colin Powell’s infamous test tubes represented at least an attempt to provide physical evidence of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. In the case of Skripal, the US and UK aren’t even going that far, which leads one to conclude that they don’t know a great deal more than what is already public information.
Ultimately, any real criminal investigation must rely on more than motive as a means of assigning guilt. This is why it is irresponsible to blame anyone for the Skripal incident. It is of course also possible that Skripal himself was in possession of Novichok and simply mishandled it. But if the new standards of such an investigation have become so crude, then motive is all one has to go on and for motive, all roads lead to Kiev.