Prime Minister May holds Russia responsible for the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal and others by the nerve agent novichok. May pointed to Russia’s refusal to co-operate (unless given access to the nerve agent) and past conduct as proof of Russia’s guilt. So in response, May has laid out Russia’s punishment. It includes the expulsion of 23 Russian envoys. May’s forceful tone has the Tories and the mainstream media (MSM), singing her praises. However, Jeremy Corbyn the Labour leader says ‘The Russian authorities must be held to account [by] the evidence‘. The MSM-Tory cabal says Corbyn is a traitor as they run another anti-Corbyn campaign. Their fervent patriotism clouds two important issues, the question of proof and quality of May’s punishment.
Russia – Presumption of Guilt
Based on circumstantial evidence Russia may be responsible for the attempted murders. Russia produced novichok, but other countries may have samples. Vladimir Putin introduced a law that sanctioned extra-judicial killings. And there are the deaths of former Russian agent Litvinenko and the whistleblower Perepilichny. Nonetheless, that is not strong enough evidence to be considered proof of attempted murder. The Skripal case raises questions that circumstantial evidence cannot address.
As a Black person, I understand all too well the dangers of circumstantial evidence replacing proof. And, Britain must not forget that it waged war on Iraq when there was no evidence of weapons of mass destruction.
Boris Johnson said that the evidence against Russia was overwhelming. Then confirmed that the samples were yet to be sent off for testing. So it appears that Britain has condemned Russia without proof. Surely that cannot be right for a country that prides itself on the rule of law? Therefore the MSM-Tory cabal’s attack on questioning the presumption of guilt is extremely alarming.
A Symbolic Response
May’s support has her riding high, even greeting people with fistbumps in a bid to replace the Maybot with May-T. But May’s response to Russia was not bold, merely symbolic. Britain will expel 23 Russian envoys, not send any dignitaries to Russia’s World Cup, suspend high-level contacts with the Kremlin and increased security checks at the borders.
There are no biting economic sanctions although May did hint at freezing the assets of Russian billionaires. But she won’t. As the New York Times observed Britain already has the power to seize dirty Russian money but does not use it. The Tory’s continuously thawt attempts to introduce Magnitsky sanctions.
As I have said on my radio shows, effective sanctions like Magnitsky are not going to happen. Putin and his cronies looted Russian assets. And Britain is a magnet for Russian investment because there is a lax attitude to money laundering, banks are accommodating, and property investment is lucrative. Too many influential people benefit from Russia’s dirty money. Russian billionaires make large Tory (and New Labour) party donations and the Tories are not prepared to give the money back (see video below).
Britain is facing Brexit and has a weak economy, so it needs Russia’s £10 billion trade. Russia is Britain’s biggest customer of dangerous, weapons-grade depleted uranium. Liz Saville Roberts MP asked May-T if sales would cease. May-T refused to answer (see video below).
Economic sanctions would also hurt British business in Russia. BP has significant ties to Russia; they own a 20% stake in the Russian state-owned energy firm Rosneft.
May’s response is not a harsh punishment. Nor a deterrent to state-sanctioned assassination attempts. There is a political appetite to maintain the flow of billions of Russian pounds into London. It is greater than the appetite for effective sanctions. So Russia does not fear British reprisal. We live in dangerous times: Especially when questioning the presumption of guilt is treasonous.
“The greatest patriotism is to tell your country when it is behaving dishonorably, foolishly, viciously.” ― Julian Barnes
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