But not quite as bad as I feared

It could have been worse. The Skripal affair will continue to undermine Russian-Western relations for years to come, accentuating the already deep distrust of Russia in Western states. In terms of the long term effect on attitudes, it’s decidedly bad. In the short term, though, it’s not quite as bad as I feared, as the British government has so far refrained from taking really serious action against the Russian Federation. British Prime Minister Theresa May today announced the UK’s response to the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal, and it consists of the following measures:

  • The expulsion of 23 diplomats – who have one week to leave
  • Increased checks on private flights, customs and freight
  • The freezing of Russian state assets where there is evidence they may be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents
  • Ministers and Royal Family to boycott the Fifa World Cup in Russia later this year
  • The suspension of all planned high level bi-lateral contacts between the UK and Russia

Diplomatically, this is tough stuff, but in practical terms it’s more or less meaningless. Russia will simply replace its diplomats with other ones, as will the UK when Russia expels British diplomats in response. Increased checks on freight etc falls far short of new economic sanctions and certainly short of the demands some people were making to force Russian oligarchs to take their money out of Britain. I very much doubt Russia will be too bothered if Prince William doesn’t turn up to the World Cup, and this is a very minor step compared with withdrawing England from the competition. And the suspension of high-level bilateral contacts will be damaging, but something Russia can live with and not feel that it has suffered.

Certainly, the British government has avoided taken drastic action which would adversely affect British interests and prompt a severe Russian reaction – so, no sweeping sanctions, no World Cup boycott, no banning of RT, etc. In short, it all adds up to a slap on the wrist but nothing much more. There’s not much to be happy about, but let’s at least take some consolation in that.

29 thoughts on “But not quite as bad as I feared”

  1. why the russians have to kill the former agent now? i fhehas to be killed ,why not kill more diplomatically ?Nerve gas is really unsafe

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  2. “Ministers and Royal Family to boycott the Fifa World Cup in Russia later this year”

    See?! I was right! Britain is stroK!

    “The Skripal affair will continue to undermine Russian-Western relations for years to come, accentuating the already deep distrust of Russia in Western states.”

    What about accentuating the already deep distrust of the Perfidious Albion in Russia?

    “In short, it all adds up to a slap on the wrist but nothing much more. There’s not much to be happy about, but let’s at least take some consolation in that.”

    Tl;dr:

    – Theresa May and her cronies fancied to remodel her as the Rusty Iron Lady who craved her own “Falklands War 2: Electricity-Is-Off Boogaloo” moment. Ergro – fire and brimsotone rhetoric fueled by the “Free and Independent Western Press”.

    – Instead they shat themselves. Liquidly. Very liquidly.

    All hail crony capitalism!

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    1. “Strong and stable” leadership in modern Britain, just a farce.

      Fortunately, Brexit is no farce. May will pay for it.

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    1. “So, when is Corbyn going to take over, clean house, and kick these clowns out?”

      Never. Vigilant patriots in Her Majesty’s Service (aka “The Sun”) found out that he is a fifth columnist:

      Lustrations – and mental Ukrainization of the UK – is imminent.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Says the BBC “Moscow refused to meet Mrs May’s midnight deadline to co-operate in the case”. There was no co-operation, there was an ultimatum to explain their involvement. Accusation without due process in a no-win challenge. No wonder Lavrov responded with sarcasm.
    It’s like the question “Have you stopped beating your wife? Yes or No!”. The only thing you can do is not play the game.

    Do you think Russia did it?
    If you do, I’d really like to know what you genuinely think their motivation was. Rank stupidity by a rank and file / rogue secret service man? I think the motivation from the US side is far stronger / more likely. There has been no discussion in the mainstream media in the UK on a possible motive, other than “general evilness” (which seems to pass as ‘reason’ these days).

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    1. > I think the motivation from the US side is far stronger / more likely.

      US does not need extra motivation, they are well in Cold War mode.

      But it could be dozens of other actors with even stronger motivation. Say, some jihadists (*) who really would like US to step up pressure on Russia in Syria. It might not be impossible for them to synthesize 40-50 year old relatively simple poison (they probably have smart people in their ranks) or pick precursors from Uzbekistan. The trick is relatively reliable, because Russia would be blamed no matter what without any investigation and therefore West is really easy to manipulate.

      (*) Just one of many possibilities. Why none such is considered is … interesting.

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      1. “Say, some jihadists (*) who really would like US to step up pressure on Russia in Syria. […] Why none such is considered is … interesting.”

        But this is the same concept as ‘Ukrainian trail’. And that one is considered; I saw it somewhere.

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    2. The Russians, as I understand it, asked, as was proper, for the chemical and they were denied. The UK fumbled chain of custody. Only the bodies of the victims hold any hope, but what if ‘they’ are tampered with? See John Helmer’s blog posts for more detail.

      I am surprised that the author of this blog post is as blasé about the attack ‘on Russia’ as he is. Apology if I’m wrong. It seems to be the tone of this blog post.

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  4. Ah, even more now, May is calling for more security powers to “combat the threat”, and more mainstream media (including the BBC) are begining to beat the drums of boycotting the world cup. These things may or may not be opportunistic, but they certainly have the look of a planned campaign.

    Meanwhile members of parliament are competing to see who can be the most rampantly nationalistic and “hard on Russia”. A few days ago, it was announced that Labour had a 7 point lead in the polls. This will boost Mays popularity to be sure.

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    1. May is way out over her skis on this. Novichok may not even exist. If it does, how did the brits id it if they’ve never even seen it? This could (hopefully) prove to be a major humiliation of May.

      No wonder they don’t want OPCW to examine the evidence.

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  5. >suspension of high-level bilateral contacts will be damaging, but something Russia can live with and not feel that it has suffered

    Don’t you think that this issue will damage Britain more than Russia?

    It may benefit May, but it won’t benefit Britain which has to focus on organizing Brexit, and now gets distracted by an artificial conflict with Russia.

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    1. That’s what she wants.

      Brexit is turning into a disaster under May and she needs to rally the party and country to support her failing policies

      Russia has been demonised for so long it is easy for her to make accusations and no one questions them.

      The media are banging the drum for war instead of asking questions.

      The MPs are not asking questions about evidence and due process.

      The British are behaving in prejudiced manner. I am British and I am disgusted by the lack of evidence she has presented just insults and Russophobia.

      That this farce was discussed at the United Nations was a new low.

      France should be ashamed

      China kept silent. If they want to a world leader they need to speak up.

      And the Americans just regurgitated all the usual rubbish on Syria, North Korea and “Russia Russia Russia” to blame.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I think that Lavrov can be happy not to listen to pompous, self righteous lectures from Boris. Bilateral contacts tend to consist of monologues from Britain is the any point in having them?

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    1. “Just a small short circuit…..nice to see the old Paul back….;)”

      I fail to see both any reason for jubilation on your part as well as any reason to feel “betrayed” by Professor. In this particular blogpost he does not say that he changed his mind and now thinks that Russia is NOT guilty, ergo – he still thinks it is. No, Professor decided to go with a flow, with the mainstream. You can forgive him for that – he has a family and career at stake.

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      1. Jeremy Corbyn was brow beaten into condemning Russia – after requesting more proof in parliament.

        That’s western democracy in a nutshell; it shows he is a paper tiger.

        The UK defence secretary actually said the country needs to rally round the prime minister!!!

        Theresa May is happy with the results of this propaganda effort.

        The country it seems is persuaded this week at least – that she’s a good prime minster – last week she was falling behind the opposition leader Corbyn by 7 points.

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  6. Dear Mr Robinson,

    This will be my last post on this subject, but I have a question for you and other readers.

    If what the UK say is true and Russia used a chemical weapon to attempt to kill endangering the residents in Salisbury – why are the sanctions so weak?

    Not even the Ambassador has been kicked out.

    This alone should tell you that the British are lying.

    The media in the UK has become the propaganda arm of the government and have not questioned the narrative which was put out within 24 hours by that great scientist (sarcasm) Boris Johnson.

    On cue a cast of characters appeared on TV the bbc – bill browder, Luke Harding, none of whom are chemist or scientist – to pronounce Russia’s guilt .

    We even got soviet defectors living in America pointing fingers at Russian Federation – a country they have not been in since the end of the USSR so what would they know about now?

    Russia has not even been given the right to a fair hearing, if you are telling the truth UK present the evidence.

    I thought we in the west respect for the rule of law.

    Cui bono?

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    1. Jeremy Corby is, I feel, a faker like Bernie Sanders. Barbara Mckenzie has examined him closely. There’s even a connection to George Soros!

      Electoral systems, everywhere, are just as captured as governments, which are fronts for corporations (Corporatocracy). We are supposed to believe that if we can vote in elections then we have ‘not’ lost democracy and don’t need to look for it.

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    2. “The media in the UK has become the propaganda arm of the government”

      I disagree – it did not BECOME. It has always been like this.

      “I thought we in the west respect for the rule of law. “

      :)))))))

      […]

      Oh, wait – you are serious?! Let me laugh even harder!

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  7. Prof.: It is still disturbing that, without a proper investigation, she kicks out 23 Russian diplomats (à-la-Obama) for an alleged chemical attack by Russia. I really liked most of the response by Jeremy Corbyn. Unfortunately, he too did welcome the Magnitsky measures apparently being proposed in the HoC. Like you said in a previous post, combatting human rights is a noble task that should be taken on by all governments but it is dangerous to single out one country (in this case, Russia) and demonstrates grandstanding rather than solve the problem. In any case, his response was more reasoned than Theresa May’s. Anyways, here is part of Corbyn’s response: https://youtu.be/BDL3XHQ_jh4.

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  8. All in all, these past two weeks proved one thing for sure – the UK (and, by extension, the West) don’t have such ncesary for any democracy thing as the much lauded “civil society”. People of Russia, no matter how handshakable they can be, simply have no one to talk to besides the ruling regimes in the “civilized” capitopls of the world. When the poosh come to shove, the “Enlightened Western Public” ™ choose to toe the party line and join the unthinking bleating of the outraged (vaguely hominid) cattle.

    […]

    Splendid! I think Russia must adapt the same strategy and from now on repress all “disagreeing ones” accordingly.

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  9. IT LOOKS LIKE A REPEAT OF COLD WAR IN 1980’S LIKE OIL PRICE REDUCTION,CREATING ISOLATION ,HIGHLIGTING RUSSIA RULING IDEOLOGY AS BAD,PUTTING MISSILES ,PROPAGANDA ETC.,.THOUGH THIS TIME RUSSIA DID ALRIGHT .

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  10. ‘There’s more evidence to come yet, please your Majesty,’ said the White Rabbit, jumping up in a great hurry; ‘this paper has just been picked up.’

    ‘What’s in it?’ said the Queen.

    ‘I haven’t opened it yet,’ said the White Rabbit, ‘but it seems to be a letter, written by the prisoner to—to somebody.’

    ‘It must have been that,’ said the King, ‘unless it was written to nobody, which isn’t usual, you know.’

    ‘Who is it directed to?’ said one of the jurymen.

    ‘It isn’t directed at all,’ said the White Rabbit; ‘in fact, there’s nothing written on the outside.’ He unfolded the paper as he spoke, and added ‘It isn’t a letter, after all: it’s a set of verses.’

    ‘Are they in the prisoner’s handwriting?’ asked another of the jurymen.

    ‘No, they’re not,’ said the White Rabbit, ‘and that’s the queerest thing about it.’ (The jury all looked puzzled.)

    He must have imitated somebody else’s hand,’ said the King. (The jury all brightened up again.)

    ‘Please your Majesty,’ said the Knave, ‘I didn’t write it, and they can’t prove I did: there’s no name signed at the end.’

    ‘If you didn’t sign it,’ said the King, ‘that only makes the matter worse. You must have meant some mischief, or else you’d have signed your name like an honest man.’

    There was a general clapping of hands at this: it was the first really clever thing the King had said that day.

    ‘That proves his guilt,’ said the Queen.

    ‘It proves nothing of the sort!’ said Alice. ‘Why, you don’t even know what they’re about!’

    […]

    ‘That’s the most important piece of evidence we’ve heard yet,’ said the King, rubbing his hands; ‘so now let the jury—’

    ‘If any one of them can explain it,’ said Alice, (she had grown so large in the last few minutes that she wasn’t a bit afraid of interrupting him,) ‘I’ll give him sixpence. I don’t believe there’s an atom of meaning in it.’

    The jury all wrote down on their slates, ‘She doesn’t believe there’s an atom of meaning in it,’ but none of them attempted to explain the paper.

    […]

    Let the jury consider their verdict,’ the King said, for about the twentieth time that day.

    ‘No, no!’ said the Queen. ‘Sentence first—verdict afterwards.’

    ‘Stuff and nonsense!’ said Alice loudly. ‘The idea of having the sentence first!’

    ‘Hold your tongue!’ said the Queen, turning purple.

    ‘I won’t!’ said Alice.

    ‘Off with her head!’ the Queen shouted at the top of her voice. Nobody moved.

    ‘Who cares for you?’ said Alice, (she had grown to her full size by this time.) ‘You’re nothing but a pack of cards!’

    Like

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