In the light of the Salisbury attack on the 4th of March 2018, Russia’s relationship with Europe has been brought into question yet again. With all the evidence pointing to one only suspect; Russia. How should the UK and Europe respond?
Well let’s look into this, what exact evidence has been produced, the Russian government say its not them, they accuse the British government of hiding the evidence from them and when you look into it, it would appear that other countries know how to produce the exact chemical used, the chemical in question is Novichok.
Novichok was first made public by a chemist called Vil Mirzayanov in 1991, he claimed that Russia had produced and stockpiling them for years and whilst he said it was “not developed in large quantities” by Russia – it still might be enough to kill “several hundred thousand people”.
The word Novichok translates as the newcomer and is claimed to be up to 5-8 times stronger than other nerve agents.
Here is where it gets tricky though, apart from Miraxayanovs writings there is no other acknowledgement or evidence that this actually exists, Russia’s deputy foreign minister said after the attack at Salisbury “I want to state with all possible certainty that the Soviet Union or Russia had no programmes to develop a toxic agent called Novichok”.
So the only substantial foundation for the existence of the Novichok is the writings from one chemist called Vil Mirzayanov, now whilst I do not deny what he is telling us to be true it is such little evidence to go on and subsequently accuse another country of a chemical attack on foreign soil which is a breach of the Geneva convention.
You also have to take into account that because this book is from a personal account it may be subject to spin.
There have also been reports to produced to compound that this chemical even exists, one in 2011 a report from the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which noted “There has been no confirmation of [Mirzayanav’s] claims, nor has any peer review been undertaken in regard to the information on these chemicals in the scientific literature on this subject”
The other report published by the Royal Society of Chemistry in 2016 said there had been “no independent confirmation of the structures or the properties of such compounds have been published.
Now I do want to bear in mind that all that still doesn’t mean that Novichoks don’t exist in either theory or practice but this is such a cloudy issue which cannot be used to then retaliate at another country, expel its diplomats and then consider further actions.
Dr Peter Cragg, a supramolecular chemist at Brighton University who researches chemical warfare agents says “I have seen over 25 chemical structures claiming to be Novichocks, but whether or not they have all actually been made cannot be verified”.
Of course, if the chemical weapon cannot be proven to belong to Russia then, of course, the nature of the attack fits a pattern look at the high profile case of former FSB (Federal security service) Alexander Litvinenko and Putin critic Boris Berezovsky so Salisbury definitely fits a pattern used by the Russian state.
The Motive behind the attacks also are quite clear cut, Sergei Skripal was accused of passing information to the UK’s secret services about Russian operatives in Europe so in the eyes of Russia, he is a traitor.
Let’s look at this though, let me play devil’s advocate here, If I found out that a British operative had betrayed the British state and had given Russian intelligence very sensitive information I would expect that we would send agents over to Russia and make sure the loose end was dealt with. I must add that this is the opinion of the author of the article and not those of United Politics.
So why are we shocked that a country which is very proud has done what it has done (that is assuming, of course, it has done it)? I’m not sure Russia is responsible for this attack and to be frank the nature of the attack was, of course, reckless because a nerve agent can spread and affect other people, people who were not intended to be dealt with but that aside if it is Russia then, in my opinion, they have done what they have felt necessary to deal with there loose end and before anyone says yes but he gave the secrets to the UK we should have kept him safe. Anyone who gives state secrets is accepting what possible consequences will come there way for doing so.
So how should the UK and Europe respond, well unless there is evidence presented to both the public and Russian government which irrefutable means they cannot deny it then fine flex our muscles as much as we want, expel all Russian diplomats, freeze Russian assets, sanction there country all the normal rubbish which doesn’t bother the Russians one bit but until all that is produced then calm down.
In conclusion, I think that both the UK and Europe need to stop showboating, we need to stop viewing Russia as the enemy of the world, start viewing Russia as an ally to Europe, to the UK and to the world. I fully appreciate that this would take many years to come to fruition as there is a lot of angst between us and Russia but is Russia really a country we want to be our enemy when there are much worse threats to us from North Korea to extreme Islamic fundamentalism is Russia really the enemy, I believe not.