by Nick Wright
It is entirely possible that the substance that felled the MI6 agent Skripal and his daughter originated — not just eight miles away in Britain’s chemical and biological production facility at Porton Down – but in some comparable facility in either the Russian Federation or one of the former Soviet republics.
It is also entirely possible that some element in the corrupt klepto-capitalist ruling elite of the Russian State, either with official sanction or without, is responsible for the outrage.
Decades have passed since the counter revolution in which the Soviet Union ceased to exist and the socialist basis of its economy was dismantled. It is thus rather unlikely that the revolutionary Chekist traditions and high professionalism of the workers’ ‘Sword and Shield’ have survived Russia’s transition from a dictatorship of the proletariat to a dictatorship of robber bosses. Accordingly we should not dismiss the possibility that the culprits are to be found in the Russian security apparatus or in some connection between that entity and the corporate interests it serves.
We should also keep open the possibility that this substance originated in one of the former Soviet republics, some of which are primitive dictatorships, others kleptocracies on the present-day Russian model and several NATO client states run by the political heirs of the Waffen SS.
We must hope that any actual evidence produced during the investigation currently conducting by the British State will be subjected to searching analysis. This is not to challenge the professional competence of the investigating officers and forensic specialists. They work with the material they have to hand. But we can be sure that the further the chain of evidence moves from Salisbury’s pizza parlours and park benches the more speculative will be the conclusions drawn. And the more active Britain’s intelligence organisations in its interpretation.
Theresa May has already set the scene with a Common speech that combines cynical hypocrisy with stale Cold War phrase mongering. The tone she adopted may have something to do with the seven point lead Labour has in the latest Survation poll while the effusive thanks Boris Johnson gave to “our NATO allies” hides his anxiety that continental European states who depend on trade with Russia and on its gas exports may be less enthusiastic than he for an escalation of tensions.
But we are a long way from the Cold War. The tensions between Britain and Russia arise not — as earlier — from the clash of class interests between Britain’s imperial state and the Soviet Union but from conflicts of interest between two bands of robber barons. At play here are powerful commercial interests, financial transfers of staggering proportions, contending interests in oil and gas and inter imperial conflicts that already are producing severe strains in transatlantic relationships, the Middle East and eastern Europe, the EU and wider. We can be sure that these corporate interests will pursue their aims with their customary regard for legality, morality and ethics.
It is suggested that Britain’s bourgeoisie is better mannered than their arriviste Russian counterparts. And its is true that — in tribute to the more sophisticated style of our rulers — that Russian oligarchs send their offspring to be educated at Britain’s more exclusive public schools and our most socially selective universities. Ever anxious that the population at home in the Russian Federation may not remain passive for ever they choose the City of London as a save haven for their plunder and Mayfair mansions as repositories for their possessions.
One measure of the May’s hypocrisy is the scale of oligarch donations to the party of bankers, bosses and bureaucrats. This Tory government provides its Russian clients with both sanctuary and safe keeping for their dirty money. The faked anger from the Tory benches which met Jeremy Corbyn’s sober and reasonable suggestion that the Government drop its opposition to Labour’s amendments to the sanctions and money laundering bill, which could introduce the so-called Magnitzky powers and curb the operations of the criminal super rich is yet another measure of Tory hypocrisy.
A test of the professionalism our police will be the extent to which they consider the criminal enterprises of the contending cliques among this expatriate milieu. If Mrs May is keen to test the seriousness of any Russian offer of co-operation this line of enquiry might provide an opportunity.
But other lines of enquiry need to be investigated and where possible closed off. She stated unequivocally in Parliament that the mysterious agent to which Salisbury’s citizens have been exposed is of a character that is produced in Russia. Who are we to doubt the expertise of our secret scientists in Porton Down who have had several decades to replicate the achievements of the Russian (actually Soviet) counterparts and produce counter measures.
Citizen Skripal himself might bear some scrutiny. As an acknowledged double agent with, according to press speculation, a continuing relationship with his wide range of former colleagues which include, reportedly, a ”retired” MI6 agent already compromised by the sexing up of evidence pointing to the so-far unsubstantiated allegations of Russian meddling in Trump’s election he should be able to both suggest and close-off further lines of enquiry. Let us hope that nothing compromises the care he is receiving in the NHS and that his recovery, and that of his daughter, is swift and complete.
The test to apply in these situations is, Who benefits?
It is difficult to see how Russian state interests are served by an assassination attempt on the life of this MI6 agent. The Russian have a clear interest in maintaining the convention that the people involved in spy swaps are accorded immunity. If it is an unsanctioned act by rogue elements the Russian security apparatus will no doubt deal with it in their own manner and we may never hear of the outcome. Similarly, if it is the act of some other intelligence agency retribution is likely to be exacted in a similarly opaque manner.
The only interests that are served by this are those who want to maintain a high level of tension with Russia and step up military spending. Perhaps the answer to this question is indicated by the enthusiasm with which Theresa May’s apprentice defence secretary has joined the issue. And perhaps the degree to which this does not represent a common position in the imperial NATO alliance is illustrated by the speed with which Rex Tillerson’s dismissal came after his endorsement of Boris Johnson’s statement.