The Sergei Skripal case, and the responses to it, reveal a political culture of tribalism, denialism and mass confusion. Everyone has kompromat, everyone is backing into a position based on propping up their own outlook, facts are thin on the ground, febrile speculation and Russophobia is high in the air, as is apologism for the Russians Undemocracy and appalling foreign policies.
As Bonnie Greer has written on this atmosphere of fear and violence (‘Beware the Strongman Cometh‘):
“A voyage through Twitterworld alone is enough to reveal the cornucopia of hatred and bile that exists across the political spectrum. The unease we are experiencing now seems to be rooted within our own humanity. The great fear of change, difference, a seeming inability to keep up with the pace of things, including the intradependent world that we all live in, is the engine behind the rise of protectionism and populism. It is a yearning for order and peace. At any price. And through anyone.”
First things first, because any conversation about Russia kicks off a spurious melee of ‘whataboutism‘ lets just get right out there with a complete denunciation of British foreign policy and point to our decades-long coverage of it.
Mark Curtis is spot-on to point to just the recent, most flagrant example of this:
Important to realise it’s not just UK ‘arms exports’ to Saudi. The UK has long been involved in requipping the entire Saudi military, complete with training, technical support, maintenance etc as well as the weapons & platforms. This is a strategic partnership. pic.twitter.com/PIlJ3Ko0AG
— Mark Curtis (@markcurtis30) March 10, 2018
BAE selling more Typhoon warplanes on the basis that they are combat “proven”. Yes, they’ve been used in, eg, Libya and Yemen. Quite incredible, really. Is this allowable on twitter? This is a company going into British primary schools pic.twitter.com/NA10eL5tu8
— Mark Curtis (@markcurtis30) March 10, 2018
But this isn’t a zero sum game, nor is it Harry Potter.
Britain being an duplicitous murdering foreign power doesn’t absolve Russia of being the same. There aren’t goodies and baddies and the goodies are wearing the white stetson & Russia doesn’t represent ‘the Left’ any more and hasn’t for a very long time. They are, if anything a turbo capitalist authoritarian oligarchy with an appalling human rights record.
Why would you defend that?
Today and tomorrow Theresa May will be sabre-rattling with little intent and scant credibility. The one thing she could do, she is very unlikely to do, namely shut off the rouble flooding into her party and swilling about London.
As Marina Litvinenko, the widow of murdered former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, who is among those who have called for the Tories to return money from Russians who have become British citizens, saying: “You need to be sure what kind of money these people bring to your country.”
The Conservative Party has been super-clear on this: they will not hand back £820,000 in donations from Russian oligarchs and their associates, the Chancellor has said, because it would be wrong to “tar them with Putin’s brush”.
Nor will Colonel Ruth be cancelling her lunch date with Lubov Chernukhin (who coughed up a handy £253,950 to the Tories last year) and bought Davidson for £20,000 at auction at the UK party’s Black and White Fundraising Ball in February.
Remember when cash for access was frowned upon?
Nor will the case be explored properly or publicly – if Buzzfeed’s two-year investigation (‘From Russia with Blood‘) is anywhere near the money.
Buzzfeed explore the death of Scot Young, and reveal:
“A massive trove of documents, phone records, and secret recordings shows Young was part of a circle of nine men, including the exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky, who all died suspiciously on British soil after making powerful enemies in Russia. The files reveal that Young lived in the shadow of the Russian security services and mafia groups after fronting for Berezovsky – a sworn enemy of the state – in a series of deals that enraged the Kremlin, including the doomed Russian property deal known as Project Moscow. British police declared the deaths of all nine men in Berezovsky’s circle non-suspicious, but BuzzFeed News can now reveal that MI6, Britain’s secret intelligence service, asked its US counterparts for information about each one of them “in the context of assassinations”.
“The story of this ring of death illuminates one of the most disturbing geopolitical trends of our time – the use of assassinations by Russia’s secret services and powerful mafia groups to wipe out opponents around the globe – and the failure of British authorities to confront it.”
Nor will we be getting much support from a Trump administration so soaked in kompromat it’s stitched in to the Make America Great Again caps.
Nor will we see much of ‘Global Britain’ at play here, we are now tied to a country that is the laughing stock of Europe, is represented by a discredited Foreign Secretary and is internationally isolated in a way it hasn’t been for decades.
But at the heart of this, despite all the huffing and puffing nothing will happen because money talks, and in this case money talks with some precision …
“Who sat with whom at the Conservative party fundraising dinner with an £11bn guest list?”
Part of the answer is lots of Russian oligarchs. pic.twitter.com/MG9q3ZgHfn
— Aaron Bastani (@AaronBastani) March 12, 2018
This is a world of deliberate and mass confusion.
Craig Murray is quite right to argue that: “We should be extremely sceptical of their current anti-Russian narrative. There are many possible suspects in this attack.”
But he is also right to say that “the Russian occupation of Crimea and parts of Georgia is illegal” and “I write as someone who believes that agents of the Russian state did assassinate Litvinenko”.
And Russia’s activity in Syria is a travesty that should be condemned by everyone for what it is.
There is a tight squeeze going on now and Scottish nationalists should consider whether defending the Russian state for the benefit of defending Alex Salmon’s tv show is a hill they want to die on.
In short the Russian crisis we’re looking at is a distraction from the real Russian crisis we’re living in.
The nerve agent is money.
As this splendid rant by Chunky Mark has it:
“Amazon is the Gulag – McDonald’s is the gulag!”
Poisoned Russian Oligarch Monies go all the way into No.10 Downing Street and into the pockets of Comrade Therezza and her Tory Spivs!!!pic.twitter.com/pHlaJRXcry
— ARTIST TAXI DRIVER (@chunkymark) March 12, 2018
The Russia’s aren’t coming.
They’re not coming to steal our food banks and they’re not coming up the Clyde any time soon. They’re already here propping up the Tory Party, running the Premiership and extending their reach in the City and the boardrooms and the political classes. That is as toxic a nerve agent as novochok which undermines the political body and leaves us slumped on a park bench of disinformation.