british media russophobia putin
England vs Russia on Russian soil in the football World Cup this summer would have been more entertaining than the dreary, farcical charade the two countries have been playing out since March. The Skripal Saga - The Salisbury Poisonings - Putin's personal chemical warfare attack on the UK... The only thing really worth saying about it is that it's just more sound and fury, signifying nothing. Be that as it may, the mainstream anglophone media has capitalized on this mendacity because it's a useful distraction from the major geopolitical changes underway, as well as the socio-economic and planetary upheaval resulting from, or mirroring, the chaotic world system transition we're undergoing.

Flush with paranoid conspiracy theories and lewd speculation, what the media's narratives about this nonsense lack - as usual - is all-important context. In 2003, the US and UK launched a reckless invasion and occupation of Iraq under the pretext that Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction (which, specifically, included chemical weapons) aimed at London. Russia demanded evidence of such before that war, warning that chaos would result from such a flagrant breach of international law, and was ignored.

The US and UK later launched a proxy war against neighbouring Syria by funding, arming and training an 'internationalist brigade' of 'Muslim liberators', and, once that 'softened up' the country, the anglo-American establishment were 'weapons-hot' to swoop in and 'decapitate the regime' in August 2013 under the pretext that Bashar Al-Assad had 'used chemical weapons against his own people'. Russia again intervened, but this time was listened to (likely because Russia already had a military foothold in the country via its long-term air defence contracts, not because the US Congress and UK Parliament suddenly 'saw the light' and agreed to adhere to international law). The OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) certified that the Syrian state was chemical weapon-free, and the matter was apparently dropped.

Except that it wasn't. One might expect, after such a public and internationally-applauded application of non-violent legal means to quell an international scandal which prevented the collapse of the Syrian state and further destabilization of the Middle East, that the ruse of citing 'chemical weapons' whenever Western countries wished to justify their use of overwhelming military firepower to 'teach dictators lessons' was a dead duck.

Instead, as we've seen in recent years, the stewards of empire have gone on to play this card about a dozen more times, and the scheme has been exposed each time by Russia's non-aligned media and Western dissidents. Combined with Russia's successful defence of Syria from terrorist groups like ISIS - which also exposed the Western hand behind so-called Islamic terrorism - the Western elite that grew accustomed to dominating the Middle East have acquired a strong motive to misrepresent the intentions and actions of the Russian government on the world stage.

That's why the Ado About Nothing in Salisbury attempts to connect Russia with said chemical weapons: Russia keeps 'foiling' the strategy of pinning WMD use on the target (Syria) - which has the dual effect of undermining the West's diktats abroad and seeding doubt domestically in its 'mission civilisatrice', thus eroding public faith in Western institutions and 'our way of life' - so Russia must be implicated in such WMD use itself to 'reinflate faith in the credit of Western institutions'. And if doubts remain about Western culpability in manipulating terrorists to stage chemical attacks, then at the very least Russia will have been prevented from seizing the moral high ground.

Where better to host this 'chemical match' between the Anglosphere and Russia than Salisbury, Wiltshire, famous for Stonehenge, but now infamous for being home to Britain's military WMD research laboratories, corporate weapons manufacturers (including chemical weapons - CS gas, among other notorious 'crowd-control' weapons, was born there), and military proving grounds, the first such dedicated 'military-industrial complex' when it was founded during WW1.

It's a fitting location in one sense, but not in another. A town several miles from Porton Down is probably the last place British authorities wished to draw international attention to in a 'chemical warfare crime', but the perpetrators - apparently equipped with a wicked sense of humor - clearly had other ideas. That this bizarrely-concocted story of shoddy origins becomes no clearer as the story-line develops speaks to the likelihood that this operation was carried out not by British intelligence per se, but by an 'international fifth column'. Think Litvinenko, polonium, Arafat...

Asked repeatedly by the Russian government to formally present its evidence for consideration and response, the British have opted to keep this match confined to trial-by-media, strictly avoiding legal mechanisms for dispute resolution provided under international law. Besides the vitriol launched at Russia by the global anglophone propaganda network, commentators pilloried Theresa May's government when it sold the story of a Russian conspiracy back in March, while the Russian media lampooned its British counterparts. A deadly 'Russian' nerve agent, despite having no factual link with Russia other than its cartoonish name, and which doesn't even kill upon contact? The survivors walled off from media or diplomatic contact, then disappeared into witness protection? The British government had so little evidence for its outrageous claim that 'twas Putin wot dunnit, it didn't even have any suspects!

Or so it led everyone to assume, until recently. Fully 6 months later, they have unveiled CCTV evidence placing two Russian men in Salisbury - and close to Sergey Skripal's home - at the time of the poisoning of him and his daughter. If you haven't yet done so, watch the whole of RT's interview with the suspects fingered by the British government, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov. US and UK media pundits are crooning over this 'late goal', enjoying (what they no doubt believe is) the last laugh in this 'trial'. I suppose I should add that I'm shocked by the appalling lack of journalism by Western journalists, who have done nothing to show how they arrived at their conclusions that 'Russia did it' other than to repeat the British government's policy that 'Russia did it', but, these days, I'm almost all out of shock anyway.

Besides the gaping lack of motive for the Russian government to whack a former Russian intel officer (and now British citizen) during his Russian daughter's visit, in broad daylight, on the territory of its 'Great Game' foe, on the eve of Putin's likely re-election, and with preparations underway for Russia to host the most-watched cultural event on the planet, it's extremely unlikely that these two guys are Russian intel operatives who were sent to kill the Skripals. If they were, neither Sergei nor Yulia Skripal would be alive today, Petrov and Borishov would not be their real names, they would not have traveled together, they would not have been seen together, they would not have entered the country on a direct flight from Moscow, and we would not be hearing them - at Putin's public suggestion - defend themselves in a TV interview.

Nevertheless, it's also clear - based on their movements in Salisbury, and some of their vague answers in the interview - that Petrov and Borishov were not just visiting Salisbury to 'take in the sights'. They are not Russian military intelligence officers, but they do appear to have been led by the nose by actual intel operatives into an intrigue they knew nothing about beforehand.

As we've seen with Western intelligence recruitment practices in this era of the 'War on Terror', it's easy to groom people to be somewhere at a specific time. Perhaps Petrov and Borishov were led to believe that 'business opportunities' awaited them at or near Sergei Skripal's address, and were expecting to meet either Skripal himself or someone else entirely. They perhaps walked up to his door, or a house nearby, saw that nobody was home, failed to find their contact-person, then left to fly back to Russia, none the wiser that they thus became two hapless Russian dupes 'caught on camera' walking through a crime scene - 'framed' for 'attempted murder-by-nerve agents'.

This third scenario is all the more likely given that they were tracked by CCTV arriving at Salisbury train station, walking about 2kms towards a residential neighbourhood, and were last seen on camera some 400 meters from Skripal's house. When nobody was home at whichever house they called at, they then 'took in some sights' instead. What will be interesting to find out is what exactly the nature of their business in Russia is, and thus what motivates them to take sudden international trips to 'research the market for sports supplements', and in what way they anticipated enriching their business by visiting England on a bleak March weekend.

With the two Skripals recovering as they did, and with eyewitnesses describing them as appearing to be suffering from hallucinations, and with the two Amesbury victims being drug addicts, future episodes of The Skripal Saga may see the story-line evolve from 'sports supplements' to powerful drugs. In fact, the Russians scored a goal earlier in the match when foreign minister Sergey Lavrov revealed that Spiez Laboratory, the Swiss firm analyzing samples from Salisbury on behalf of the OPCW, had found traces of BZ (chemically, 3-Quinuclidinyl benzilate), an hallucinogenic chemical warfare agent the Pentagon has long-since tested on US soldiers.

Curiously, a carefully-timed leak to Swiss and Dutch newspapers last week revealed that two 'Russian GRU agents' had been detained in The Hague, Holland, where the OPCW is located, for breaking into (or remotely hacking - the report isn't clear) the Spiez Laboratory in Switzerland, before being promptly expelled back to Russia. This all happened on the QT back in late March. Nobody said a word about it until now. A couple of weeks afterwards, Lavrov made his announcement about the BZ finding in the Salisbury sample. This revelation and counter-revelation 6 months later suggests two things:
  1. Lavrov's information came courtesy of a successfully hacked/stolen OPCW/Spiez report that has not been published;
  2. These two hackers/thieves were actual Russian spies, as opposed to dupes in the wrong place at the wrong time, because they were dealt with in the manner that actual spies are generally dealt with - clinically, without the hysteria the media whips up for the purpose of diverting public attention.
But curiouser still is that BZ is also a powerful anticholinergic agent, which puts it in a class of chemicals that are antidotes to nerve agents like 'Novichok'. Which means that both substances could plausibly have been used on the Skripals, perhaps in quick succession, or in some otherwise 'safe' combination. Which hints that both the British and the Russians could end up being technically correct, on that score anyway.

And on and on the Skripal Salisbury Saga goes...