England v. Russia

O-o-o, England’s going to Russia!

O-o-o, Drinking all your vodka!

O-o-o, England’s going all the way!

When I was watching Belgium B play England B in Kaliningrad last week, the English fans were happily singing about drinking Russian vodka, but there was also a particularly loud Russian guy in front of me who was cheering the Belgians along, while occasionally throwing in chants of ‘Rossiya’ and ‘Baltika’ (the local team). Every now and again, as part of his abuse of the English, he would add in a reference to the ‘Skripals’, that is to say Sergei and Yulia Skripal, who were notoriously poisoned by the nerve agent Novichok in Salisbury. Quite what the Skripals had to do with football was beyond me, but it was clear that the Russian guy thought that their story was proof of ‘perfidious Albion’ and thus reason enough to support Belgium. In short, he obviously wasn’t buying the story that the Skripals were poisoned by the Russian secret services.

I doubt that he’s any more likely to think that way following the revelation of a new Novichok poisoning, this time in Amesbury, not far from Salisbury. The affected couple have no connection to Russia, and the speculation is that they came into contact with some residue of the nerve agent left behind after the original attack. This, of course, is not impossible, but given that even persistent chemical agents are affected by the elements (sun, rain, etc), sceptics will no doubt consider it a little odd and somewhat implausible.

My man in Kaliningrad was a bit of a loudmouth, but I suspect that his views on the Skripal affair are not unrepresentative of Russian public opinion – i.e. most Russians don’t think that their country is guilty, and if anything consider themselves the wronged party, while also regarding the British government as thoroughly nefarious. The latest news is likely to reinforce that point of view, and not just among rowdy football fans. For instance, the online newspaper Vzgliad declared today that the news from Amesbury ‘points to London’s direct participation in the “Skripal affair”.’ ‘How can Russia exploit the situation to finally put an end to suspicions in this regard?’ the newspaper asked.

But if the Amesbury incident is likely to confirm Russians’ belief in their innocence, it will probably also strengthen the British government’s anti-Russian position. For in British eyes, the incident underlines the irresponsible nature of the attack on the Skripals, involving the use of a weapon which not only struck its initial targets but also possibly contaminated a wide area, turning tens of thousands of innocent English citizens into potential victims. British Home Secretary Sajid Javid thus accused the Russian government today of being ‘reckless and callous’, and commented that the use of chemical agents was ‘barbaric and inhumane’. ‘It is completely unacceptable for our people to either be deliberate or accidental targets, or for our streets, our parks, our towns to be dumping grounds for poison,’ said Javid.

Given how strange this entire story is, I await the results of further investigation before coming to any judgement about what has actually happened. In the meantime, the latest twist in the tale will probably serve to reinforce existing positions – those who blame the Russians will be even more convinced of the evil nature of the Russian government, while sceptics (including most Russians) will become even more sceptical. In the days to come, expect positions to harden, and if we end up with a Russia-England World Cup semi-final, look forward to some chants about Novichok in Moscow on 11 July.

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16 thoughts on “England v. Russia”

  1. Wow! Let’s just hope that those wicked Ruskies don’t launch a more broad-based attack with their ’10 times more deadly than VX state-of-the-art’ nerve-warfare agent ‘Novichock’. Otherwise thousands more of us Brits may become a bit poorly for a few days.

    What a complete and utter farce.

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  2. The UK government at the moment today in fact are split apart over Brexit.

    This latest story about nerve agents attack on a heroin addict and an acholic happened on the 30th but they waited until now to go big on this story.

    I call it a story as I am expected to believe that this deadly nerve agent survived in the open air for 4 months.

    – The inventor of this agent Mirzaynov said it is made ineffective by water.
    It has rained dozens of times in 4 months

    – the female in this case is supposed to have smoked a cigarette but she found on the floor containing the nerve agent – what happened to the person who smoked the original cigarette

    – the friend that was with both the male and the female and is on TV as I write telling all about what happened to his friends – is not affected at all – isn’t Novichok supposed to be lethal to all who come into contact with it.

    The British government in my view are making up more lies. For political reasons – Brexit, trump meeting putin are the making the government nervous about their position in the world

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    1. The friend Sam Hobson may be an intelligence asset himself. As Bernhard at Moon of Alabama spotted, Hobson was arrested in 2011 for stealing a bus for joyriding. He was sentenced to 6 months in prison but served just 9 weeks. While he may have got out early for good behaviour, and no more, another possibility is that he could have been offered early release for “good behaviour” if he agreed to work for the authorities on a future project where he would be required to act as bait to trap someone or help mould a narrative. At the very least, we should not trust what Hobson says to the press, especially as he is the only conduit to the stricken couple for the MSM.

      http://www.salisburyjournal.co.uk/news/8824704.Freed_joyrider_speaks_of_jail_experience/

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      1. I would count myself as a sceptic about the Skripal case, but I don’t think someone getting released from prison after 9 weeks for a 6 month sentence is in any way exceptional.

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  3. “The affected couple have no connection to Russia, and the speculation is that they came into contact with some residue of the nerve agent left behind after the original attack”

    What – entire syringe full of Novichok laced buckweat? 😉

    ‘It is completely unacceptable for our people to either be deliberate or accidental targets, or for our streets, our parks, our towns to be dumping grounds for poison,’ said Javid.

    … and then began crying.

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    1. What Guest said. Even the most dull-witted Britons cannot think, regardless their comprehension of the characteristics of a nerve agent, that direct and theoretically ‘fresh’ exposure failed to kill the original targets but accidental exposure four months later brought two new victims to death’s door. And all but the most clinically non-functional must see the conflict in the official statement by the British police that the public at large is not in danger, and the reality that they do not know the source of the contamination.

      Some have suggested it is a British “Look over here!!!” cry for attention in hope of derailing the Trump-Putin ‘summit’, and while it is true the UK government is a-tremble at the possibility The Donald might make some nutty impulsive gesture, he doesn’t really have anything worth trading that he could actually make happen.

      The couple are known drug abusers, and my money is on their having gotten hold of something that was cut with another ingredient to increase its profitability. It is too easy for the British to say it was Novichok – it increases the public familiarity with the term while invoking all its nameless terrors, infers that Russia was somehow to blame without having to be more specific, and they can always walk it back later and say what it really was, but that its symptoms were just like Novichok poisoning, at which Britain is the World Center of Excellence in diagnosing.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Beyond curious, Lyttenburgh, no doubt. The latest British Novichok instance that is.

      But: The very, very best to Russia vs Croatia. By the way. I am told it should be worth watching. My expert tells me the Croatians are masters of the ball. But that expert played football himself and is a sports fan from early on. And by now as more general sports fan seems to be forced into divided attention to the Tour de France 2018 and the WFC 2018. While I only learned the football rules in England from my friend from Birmingham in 1974, curiously enough.

      My favorite final match, by the way, would be between GB and Russia with Russia winning. Just for the hell of it. And strictly I was good “in he little bet on the horses”, never mind their or their jockey’s outsider status, or expertise in GB and Ireland.

      Hello, by the way. 😉

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  4. What about the 2001 anthrax scare in the US, first blamed on the boogieman of the moment Osama Bin Laden, then on the boogieman Saddam, and then disappeared into the memory hole. Could this be similar?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Swept down the memory hole by now, no doubt, MCJ. Startling at the time. But yes curiously similar on the surface meant to cause a panic pattern.

      Bo doubt memory holes are/may be helpful in the larger field of “countries have no friends, they only have interests” politics.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokyo_subway_sarin_attack

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarin#History

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weapon_of_mass_destruction#Evolution_of_its_use

      Novichok no doubt is less easy to look up concerning its former use. (Semi Irony Alert)

      **********

      I doubt the German services were more clever then others? No expert. But if I am right, what does this signal concerning attribution?

      https://www.dw.com/en/skripal-poisoning-germany-got-novichok-chemical-sample-from-russia-in-1990s/a-43818626

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  5. I’m very curious about PR’s priors with respect to cases like this. Having worked in military intelligence during the cold war, I would imagine that he was privy to, or at least heard plausible rumors of, all kinds of shady business carried out by both the British and Soviet states.

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  6. To have a Conservative Home Secretary to say ‘reckless and callous‘ you would think it might have been about the government’s hostile policy towards immigrants and their reckless and callous behavior towards the Windrush Generation. But no, Black is white, white is black and never the twain shal meet. God help us all.

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  7. The English team is the least entertaining, most boring team left in the tournament, and the new novichok story just underlines the whole Anglo folly. Inside of a week, the English pundits convinced themselves they can win the World Cup – a dreadful thought for any football lover based on their current performance. In the last 35 minutes of the game, they trembled, near p@d their pants, were chaos for most of the time, and when they skimped by in penalties Kane said “we held it together, stuck to the plan,….” a comment which drew laughter from other European pundits for its sheer incredulity. It is this wide gap between fantasy and reality that plagues also the novichok story and, in general, the UK’s self-image in international relations. Let’s hope an entertaining team win the World Cup, and let’s banish these political and other wannabees.

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    1. By far the most boring game this World Cup was France v. Denmark, which I had the displeasure of watching in Moscow. Yet, France v. Argentina was a thriller. So, one and the same team can be really great to watch one day, and super, super dull another time.

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