‘Highly likely’ motto: West goes on offensive against Russia for Skripal poisoning
While the probe into the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal is still ongoing and no tangible results have been presented, the West seems desperate to put all the blame on Russia. And the arguments have become increasingly notable.
It all started when the British Prime Minister Theresa May said that it was “highly likely that Russia was responsible” for the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. Her statement, which presented an assumption as some sort of proof of Moscow’s alleged culpability in the high-profile case, seems to have opened a Pandora's box of increasingly bizarre arguments that the British officials, as well as London’s allies in the West, came up with in an attempt to convince the world of Russia’s guilt.
Almost immediately, Washington decided to endorse its “special partners” in London by parroting their dubious argument and said that Moscow is “likely responsible.” US President Donald Trump then apparently decided to throw his weight behind these accusations also, saying that “it looks like” no one other than Russian President Vladimir Putin could have been behind the attack.
The idea that Russia was “likely” behind the Skripal poisoning appeared to be a tenacious argument in the West’s whole line of reasoning, and it was soon adopted by other European officials as well. The leaders of France, Germany, the US and the UK even issued a joint statement, which reiterated that “it was highly likely that Russia was responsible for the attack.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also joined the chorus of Western officials who are sure that Russia was culpable in the Skripal case. She also apparently found the “likelihood” that Russia was involved in the incident quite convincing. The German chancellor went to extraordinary lengths and said that the chance the traces will lead to Russia is “highly likely,” twice in one day – during her joint press conferences with the Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven and the French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday.
However, the West apparently grew weary of such “flawless” reasoning and decided to come up with even more far-fetched arguments to blame Moscow. Macron, for example, said Russia must be responsible for poisoning the former double agent because “there is no other plausible explanation.”
Others, however, turned out to be more inventive in their arguments. The US envoy to the UN, Nikki Haley, suggested that there is some link between Russia’s involvement in the Salisbury case and its alleged failure to ensure that the Syrian government destroys its chemical weapons. She was never bothered by the fact that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), a UN watchdog, and the Pentagon confirmed that the Syrian government’s chemical weapons had actually been destroyed.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg suddenly came to the conclusion that Russia’s alleged role in the attack is somehow consistent with a general “reckless pattern of Russian behavior over many years.” He was not able to come up with anything better than the “traditional” accusations that have already been used against Russia, which included “the military build-up from the North of Europe to the Middle East,” “attempts to subvert democratic elections and institutions” and what he called the “annexation” of Crimea. However, what this had to do with the Skripal case still remains a mystery.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson apparently decided to deliver a knockout punch in the long line of striking arguments when he said that doing something like poisoning a former spy is just an indispensable part of Russian nature. According to the top British diplomat, Moscow’s response to London’s rebukes only further proves its guilt.
“There is something in the kind of smug, sarcastic response that we’ve heard that indicates their fundamental guilt,” Johnson told the BBC.
In an opinion piece he wrote for the Washington Post, Johnson also said that the entire incident was nothing other than the manifestation of “blatant Russia-ness.”
Predictably, the foreign secretary also snatched at the opportunity to say that “it [is] overwhelmingly likely”that Putin directly ordered the poisoning.
It is no wonder that former German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel eventually compared the whole situation to a “lousy James Bond movie.” He criticized politicians for expressing their “most bizarre suspicions” and “pursuing their own conspiracy theories.” He also advised the officials to draw their conclusions “after the end of the investigation and not before.”
Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the incident. Speaking at a news briefing Thursday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused London of making “insane” accusations while refusing to provide Moscow with any evidence. Earlier, she also called the hearing at the British Parliament, where May said Russia was “highly likely” responsible for the incident, a "circus show."
Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter have been in critical condition since March 4, when they were found unconscious on a bench outside a shopping center in Salisbury. The man worked as a double agent for the UK intelligence agency MI6 and was jailed in Russia in 2006 for spying for Britain. He was later part of a “spy swap,” in which Russia released four spies in exchange for 10 Russian agents.
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