Why Kill Skripal’?

Today Vzglyad’ ru, the most hawkish periodical in Russia, has appeared with a piece on the Skripal’ affair written in an informed and cynical manner by someone who appears to know a thing or two about Russia’s secret intelligence agencies; from the inside, perhaps? Welcome to the 1990s, it suggests, when Russian intelligence officers could apparently be found at bargain basement prices and Skripal’ among them.

Almost the entire Russian press waxes indignant that the British Prime Minister should lay the blame for the attempted assassination of Skripal’ at the door of the Kremlin.

All of this raises some serious questions.

First of all, as Russians always argue, who could benefit from the murder of a former GRU officer who betrayed his country? The primary issue in such a case is always motive. Surely only Russia has motive. The rules were recently changed so that, as in the time of Stalin and Khrushchev, traitors could expect to be executed, in today’s world by the FSB, wherever they found asylum.

Second, if Skripal’ was as totally insignificant as Vzglyad’ ru makes out, then someone went to an awful lot of dangerous trouble with consequences damaging to Russian state interests, to wreak vengeance on the man.

Third, all kinds of experts in Russia are claiming that the nerve agent identified could not possibly be Russian; the name given is mistaken etc. This just does not sound at all plausible. Mirzayanov, a Russian weapons chemist who moved to the USA after having been prosecuted for betraying state secrets, identified the agent a long time ago. Now the claim is they once made it but destroyed all the stocks. The combination of the two is unlikely to convince anyone.

Lastly, the public statements on Russian TV and the tone of the Vzglyad’ ru article reveal a cold blooded indifference to the acute suffering of Skripal’ and his daughter; the former a traitor to his country, but the latter an entirely innocent party by all accounts. Foreign Minister Lavrov does not sound any more concerned. And this leaves any notion of a credible foreign policy in tatters, except that of a forward security policy loosely disguised as a foreign policy.

And, one has to ask, what exactly is gained by this ‘affair’?