9 March 2018
The suspected nerve agent attack upon a Russian former intelligence officer, Sergei Skripal, which also affected his daughter in the English city of Salisbury last Sunday has given rise to much speculation, too much hysteria, and too little analysis or insight. It has provided ammunition for the rabidly Russophobic
Western media to make thinly veiled accusations that it was another example of Russia in general and Putin in particular disposing of a supposed enemy of Russia.
As with the Mueller ‘investigation’ into the alleged Russian interference in the last US presidential election there are accusations with varying degrees of wildness, but little or no actual evidence that would get past first base in any independent court of law.
First, what are the known facts, only some of which have been accurate reported in the western mainstream media. The victim (assuming it was a deliberate attack upon him and his daughter) was formerly a Colonel in the Russian military intelligence service (the GRU). This is the largest of the Russian intelligence agencies and, as with its western equivalents, has a wide variety of functions, of which “spying” is only one.
In the early 1990s Skripal was recruited by an MI6 agent Pablo Miller, whom the British media declined to name. Miller was an MI6 agent in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. Miller’s main task was recruiting Russians to provide information about their country to the British. An interesting fact, possibly coincidental, was that the MI6 officer under diplomatic cover in Moscow at this time was Christopher Steele. Steele was later to become better known as the principal author of the infamous Trump dossier.
When Steele returned to London, he ran MI6’s Russia desk between the 2006 and 2009. The information that Skripal disclosed would have been given to Steele, first in Moscow and later in London.
Skripal was arrested in 2004. In 2006 he was convicted of treason and sentenced to 18 years imprisonment. In 2010 he was released as part of a prisoner exchange deal with Russian spies in US jails. He went to live in the United Kingdom where he has lived in supposed retirement ever since. Another interesting fact, although it again possibly coincidental, is that Salisbury, where Skripal lived, is only about 12 kilometres from Porton Down, the U.K.’s principal research centre for, inter alia, nerve agents.
If the Russians had wanted to kill him, they had ample opportunity to do so during the years when he was imprisoned or the eight years he lived in retirement in Salisbury. If they did wish to kill him, it is not a very credible that they would do so very publicly and by a means that could not be bought off the shelf in the local pharmacy. The handling and the administering of these very dangerous substances require professional expertise. The obvious candidates for the attempted murder are therefore State agencies, but which State is the unanswered question.
This is where the facts become thinner, but the interesting connections of Skripal offer scope for some tentative hypotheses. Whilst living in Salisbury, Skripal became friendly, according to a report in the conservative UK newspaper the Daily Telegraph (www.thetelegraph.co.uk 7 March 2018) with none other then the aforementioned Pablo Miller (whom the Telegraph declined to name) but who has since been identified on the web (www.meduza.io 6 March 2018).
Miller is now working with a British security consultancy named Orbis Business Intelligence. Again according to the Telegraph, Miller’s association with this company has now been removed from Millers Linked In profile.
The obvious question again is: why do so now?
Orbis is the same private intelligence agency as that of Christopher Steele. It seems more then a mere coincidence that the same three men who had personal and professional links going back to the 1990s should have a continuing association at the same time as the Steele dossier was being compiled and later as the so-called Russiagate inquiry was imploding.
The former FBI Director James Comey described the Steele dossier as “salacious and unverified” in giving evidence to a Senate hearing.
The former British ambassador Craig Murray has suggested on his blog a motive (www.craigmurray.org.uk 8 March 2018) for the attempted murder of Skripal and his daughter was to further promote the anti-Russian hysteria that inflicts the western media and the body politic.
That is certainly possible, and it has certainly been one of the consequences, as the abysmal coverage of the ABC among other outlets makes clear. But an alternative hypothesis presents itself in the light of the above facts, and this hypothesis has not even been mentioned, let alone discussed by our major media.
My admittedly speculative hypothesis, but I would argue, not an unreasonable one, is that Skripal was very likely involved in the production of the Steele dossier. He was therefore in a position to offer potentially very damaging information into the circumstances of the Steele dossier. As noted above, that particular narrative has not only spectacularly collapsed, but the revelations reflect very badly on, among others, the US Intelligence Community, the FBI, the Democratic National Committee, the Obama White House and the Clinton campaign.
In any major criminal enquiry one of the basic questions the investigation asks is: who had the means, the motive and the opportunity? Framed in that light, the Russians come a distant fourth behind the other prime suspects; the US and UK intelligence agencies themselves, and those elements of the deep state that sought to prevent Trump winning, and subsequently to undermine his presidency.
*Barrister at Law and geopolitical analyst. firstname.lastname@example.org