Nafeez Ahmed, "The UK government is manufacturing its nerve agent case for ‘action’ on Russia", Insurge Intelligence (14 March 2018)Although I'm recommending Nafeez Ahmed's article, let me just add a few thoughts on this Skripal affair, because it's been bothering me (as, I suspect, it has you). What would Putin have had to gain from this? It's been suggested that the attack was some kind of warning to other would-be traitors. But if you work for intelligence agencies surely you don't need such a warning. You know the score already: You sell secrets, you may well end up.
So, why not bump Skripal off quietly. The CIA has had the ability to induce a heart attack without trace since at least the 1970s, and I can't quite believe the Russians don't have access to this technology (at least) in 2018. Specifically, why not bump him off in such a way that doesn't lead to international outrage caused by the use of red-flag chemical weapons on British soil (which, of course, plays directly into the WMD meme so cherished by the West), and doesn't give your opponents the opportunity to whip up fear and score propaganda victories against you? Only a madman would do that. Is Putin mad? I see no evidence of that. I'm sure he's as hard as nails, and I certainly wouldn't wish to cross him. But mad? No.
As for Porton Down and its experts, why should I trust them? As Nafeez's piece reminds us, they're hardly beacons of trustworthiness and openness. What do we have beyond their say-so that it was "Novichok" at all? And even if it was, what confidence should I place in the idea that only Russia would produce such a thing?
According to Theresa May there are only two options:
"Either this was a direct act by the Russian State against our country. Or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others."
That reminds me of the salesman's trick. "Which brush would you like Mrs. Smith? The blue one, or the red one?" You don't want to leave room in the buyer's mind for any other option...
Image source: "Novichok.jpg" by Majarch (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons