What we learned today, during a high-pitched and ill-tempered session in the House of Commons was that the British spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daugther, were poisoned using a banned nerve agent manufactured in Russia. The family of agents in use has finally been named as Novichok.
This leads us to one of two possibilities, stated Prime Minister May: (1) Russia did it or (2) Russia has mysteriously lost control of its illegal chemical weapon stocks and allowed some other nefarious actor to deploy the nerve agent. It’s going to be the only week for two years where Brexit doesn’t matter.
What this does, deliciously, is give President Trump a way to forever banish claims of collusion. A robust act in support of its old ally towards the Kremlin would be timely for lots of domestic reasons in America. But more importantly, it is vital for America and the EU to stand firm against Russia. Just in case there is a coherent and logical explanation as to why Russia is not involved, their UK Ambassador has 24 hours to deliver one to the British Foreign Office in Whitehall. We already have a pretty good clue what Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson thinks about all this, as he told us all a week ago. Why Theresa May took a full seven days to reach the same conclusions will be fodder for her critics.
The word “war” came up in the chamber quite a lot this evening. It’s a word that is fun to throw around a bit these days, as we haven’t had one on our shores for 73 years. If not an act of war, then surely a war-like act. If not a Cold War then perhaps a Cool War? That sort of thing.
Not since the Kremlin’s assassination of Alexander Litvinenko has fast food looked so unpalatable. A cocktail of tea and sushi did for that FSB agent. This GRU colonel is very perilously sick indeed from what now seems certain to be a pizza. A rival chain has one called American Hot. Perhaps their only defence is to bring out a Russian Very Hot.
Only one thing is a little clearer today. It is that this level of response should have happened in 2006 when Litvinenko fell ill. Because his killing was played down and dragged out for years, Russia was emboldened. If we had responded like this 12 years ago, we wouldn’t be here today. Sergei Skripal sold his secrets for cash. He may yet pay with his life. Whether he thinks that is a fair swap is up to him, but we owe those from whom we buy information a greater standard of care than this.