March 17, 2018

What damned cheek to murder a Russian defector and his daughter in the sleepy town of Salisbury!  Britain, the US, Germany and Canada are all blasting Russia for this dastardly act that was apparently committed using a new nerve agent allegedly made in Russia known to the media as ‘Novichok.’

The victims of the attack, Sergei Skripal and his daughter, are now under intensive care in the hospital and said to be in grave condition.  Britain’s embattled Prime Minister, Theresa May, accused Russia of staging an act of war against Britain and vows revenge. Without yet producing any solid proof.

The Salisbury attack has sharply boosted May’s fortunes and her standing with voters.  Before the incident, she was sinking in the post-Brexit storm and facing a Tory rebellion.

But moral outrage won’t buy you lunch.  Serious observers must begin asking the obvious question, ‘if the wicked Vlad Putin ordered this crime, why?’  A week before Russia’s national elections?  At a time when Russia is being badly hurt by US-imposed trade and financial sanctions?

The toxic substance used – if we are to believe the Brits – was reportedly only made in Russia for military use.  Russia, by the way, is in the process of destroying its chemical weapons.  Why would Russia use an easily-identified, signature weapon instead of bullets, an untraceable lethal spray (ask the CIA about these) or a seeming accident?  Why a deadly toxin when a jab in the neck with a needle would do just as well?

To me, a veteran intelligence watcher and the only journalist shown the KGB’s collection of spycraft, I suspect the attack on the Skripals was more likely done by rogue Russian intelligence agents or by an old-boys network of revenge-seeking retired KGB agents.   Maybe even to embarrass President Putin on election eve.

Skripal was no innocent lamb.  He had secretly worked for British intelligence MI6, betraying fellow Soviet agents, for years across Europe for money.  He was given refuge in Britain after the Cold War.  There is nothing lower in the intelligence game than an agent who betrays for money – a Judas with his 30 pieces of silver.

Revenge is a dish best served cold, according to the old saying.  KGB’s predecessors used to field a special unit called ‘Death to Spies,’ better known as ‘Smersh’ to liquidate traitors and turncoats.  Readers of James Bond books will recognize Smersh.  Moscow supposedly disbanded this outfit and its poison laboratories at the end of the Cold War.  But my information is that it still exists, either officially or under cover.

Former KGB men are in high positions in Moscow.  It’s my belief that it was the KGB that overthrew Boris Yeltsin and installed one of its agents, Vladimir Putin, in power.  In 1988, I was told this would happen by KGB’s two most senior officials at its Lubyanka headquarters in Moscow.

There are also large numbers of retired ‘hard men’ of the KGB, or ‘siloviki,’ playing chess and missing the good old Soviet days.  I have little doubt that an informal group of them could have acquired toxic agents from the old KGB Moscow poison lab, the notorious ‘Kamera’, as may have occurred in the 2006 poisoning in London of Russian defector, FSB intelligence agent Alexander Livinenko. He was also working for British intelligence and a bitter foe of Vladimir Putin.

London has long been a center for foes of Russia’s government.  At KGB HQ I saw possessions belonging to ‘Ace of Spies’ Sydney Reilly dating from the 1920’s when British agent Reilly tried to overthrow the new Soviet government.  British intelligence and Russia/Soviet Union were the most bitter of enemies.  Moscow called London ‘a nest of spies’ – which, of course, it is.  But no longer a haven of security for Russian defectors.

Britain’s current moral outrage over the attempted murder should be tempered by its own sinister record of assassinations, extrajudicial killings and skullduggery.

British bombs bought by Saudi Arabia are now blasting Yemen, killing thousands.  The full story of Secret Air Service (SAS) lethal operations in Yemen and Oman remain to be told.  People who live in glass houses….


Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2018

This post is in: Great Britain, Russia


  1. From the BBC on April 3, 2018:
    “The precise source of the nerve agent used to poison a Russian ex-spy and his daughter has not been verified, says the head of Porton Down laboratory.
    The defence research facility, which identified the substance in Salisbury as Novichok, said it was likely to have been deployed by a “state actor”.”

    and the UK and the rest of the Western World has acted based on this information…

  2. The most stupid thing I’ve heard in years…

    “Don’t worry, the US would win a nuclear war with Russia
    Do not be alarmed by Russia’s announcement of production on a new nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile. While the ICBM, RS-28 Sarmat, will likely be operational within the next few years, it will not change the nuclear strike balance of power in Russia’s favor.”

  3. From the Express newspaper, “The decision was backed by 22 other nations – including the UK, US, France and Australia, who imposed similar measures, however, the ruling has sparked outrage among German MPs who have described it as an “act against German interest” and a witch hunt against Russia.
    Rolf Mützenich, a senior Social Democrat MP, described the expulsion as “too hasty”, adding the move “did not meet the political criteria that should have applied”.
    He added: “I regret the fact that 14 European governments are spontaneously expelling diplomats without new evidence — at least any evidence I’m aware of.””

  4. Dear Eric:

    I know you have not written a column yet about the announcement of John Bolton as NSA but for the life of me I cannot understand the recycling and promotion of an neocon ideologue who has been wrong on every foreign policy decision since the 9/11 era. This is response to the recent poisoning of the Russian agent and daughter:

    Mar 19
    The #NATO alliance must have a very strong response to the poisoning of a former #Russian spy in Great Britain. I am sure that is under consideration by @POTUS and his administration.

    I agree with your analysis of the poisoning episode because the hysterical reactions of the UK government fly in the face of common sense. Cui bono? Surely not Putin!

    God help this country….the last person we need advising President Trump is this reckless and consistently wrong neocon who first impulse is to start another war.

    Best wishes,


  5. At the onset of my wife’s illlness, she was taking a medicine called mestinon. This helped with by preventing acetylcholine from breaking down and allowing the neurotransmitters to activate muscles. Nerve gasses are chemicals that interfere with these neurotransmitters. It prevents the neuromuscular junction from functioning and stop the body muscles from receiving instructions from the ‘brain’. Muscles stop, breathing stops, organs fail, etc. Not a pleasant way to shake off these mortal coils.
    As noted elsewhere, nerve gasses are complex chemicals and not easily manufactured; they are not the sort of chemicals you ‘cook up’ in your garage. They can, however, be produced in a well equipped laboratory. The lab can be either private, or government, operated. The Novichok agent, although developed by the Russians, can be fabricated around the world; it may not be, exclusively, manufactured by Russia.
    I used to think that Britain had integrity. It appears that they have lost this over the decades, or, maybe my childhood impressions of Britain were wrong… why would Canadians die in World War II? To defend what? It is quite clear from their pronouncement that Russia was at the helm for this attempted assassination that they have lost the ‘high ground’. Unless they have additional evidence that they are not disclosing for security reasons, they have no direct proof that Russia was involved. Only in Texas do they execute prisoners based on such flimsy evidence.
    Putin is one of the brighter world leaders. He may not like Skripal, but, may not dislike him enough to order his death. The man’s actions and effectiveness for propaganda are passed and he was living out the autumn of his life with his family. Putin, most certainly, would not use a weapon that could implicate Russia. He cares too much for his country and he is too clever to use something that could be incriminating.
    There are too many countries that would want to vilify Putin or Russia… Britain, the US, several Middle Eastern countries, several Far East countries, etc. There are several dozen countries on that list, any of which could have produced the Novichok agent. The supplier, if manufactured was likely another government.
    Just related to activity in Syria, there are four countries that have the capability of manufacturing Novichok… Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey all have the capability. [Sarcasm On] None of these countries would wish Russia any harm [Sarcasm Off].
    It is also possible that the nerve agent was part of Russia’s original ‘stockpile’. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, other countries that were part of the Soviet Union, may have been able to obtain this nerve agent. Things were wild and uncontrolled back then. Not that they would intentionally want to discredit Russia, they, could have obtained the toxin. Agents that were enemies of the Soviet Union could also have obtained chemical weapons.
    The rest of the Western countries are jumping on the ‘bandwagon’ to sanction Russia for this grave attack. This is where this gets serious… to use a nerve agent (chemical warfare) on a citizen of a sovereign state is a form of declaration of war. Putin is well aware of this and, likely, would not want to put himself in that position.
    We’ll have to wait and see how the Donald reacts to this… more sanctions?

  6. M Shannon says:

    Doesn’t the US regularly assassinate people using missiles fired from drones? And whoever unlucky enough to be within the blast one? If it’s wrong for the Russians to kill enemies why is it just a day at work for the US?

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.