'No guarantee we will survive this new Cold War' – Peter Kuznick
The US State Department said it takes the UK's word for it that Russia was responsible for the poisoning of double-agent Sergei Skripal in Britain.
During a briefing at the US State Department on Tuesday, journalists sought evidence of Russian guilt but their questions went largely unanswered, while Heather Nauert pointed out that "We stand strongly with our ally, with the UK. And when the UK tells us that they have proof that they know Russia was responsible, we have every reason to believe them."
Nauert also commented that "Russia has long arms; Russia has lots of tentacles," adding that "It's a beast from the deep sea."
These comments come after the US ordered 60 Russian diplomats to leave the country over the poisoning incident in Salisbury, while a number of other countries, including Germany, France, Canada, and Poland, have expelled Russian diplomats in solidarity with the UK. Austria, Portugal, and Switzerland decided not to expel Russian diplomats from their embassies.
RT: The US State Department has said it has no evidence that Russia is responsible for the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter. And still, the US is expelling a record number of Russian diplomats because it takes London's claims a face value. Is that enough to justify such a reaction? What about innocent until proven guilty?
Peter Kuznick: I think there has been a very strange rush to judgment since the beginning of this episode, since the poisoning on March 4. The Brits immediately came out accusing Russia of being behind it. The thing that struck me as strange about it was they said Russia was "very likely" the country that is responsible. It seems that if you are going to make these kinds of accusations, you've got to be more certain than something is likely. I agree that the evidence seems to point to Russia. But that doesn't mean that it is absolutely certain in any ironclad sense that Russia was the perpetrator. And so given the stakes and given especially how tense the world is at this point, it seems to me a reckless rush to judgment. When the US admits that it doesn't have ironclad proof, that we are trusting the British… as we know, these intelligence agencies get things wrong. And the American and British intelligence agencies have a history of getting things wrong.
RT: Can the history books tell us anything here? What is this push about? What is the end game?
PK: It is part of a much bigger scenario that is taking place. And some people refer to it as a new Cold War. But in some ways it is more dangerous than the old Cold War. At least, in retrospect, we survived the old Cold War. There is no guarantee we are going to survive this new one. So, the tensions have been ratcheting up on both sides. And the thing is… we've got one narrative coming out of the West and you've got a completely different narrative coming out of Russia and much of the rest of the world. As if we exist in parallel universes.
This is another instance of this. If Russia is responsible, then this is quite serious. And steps need to be taken. But there is a certain hypocrisy involved. You think of how serious this is and the response to this, compared to how serious it was when the US and Britain and the others invaded Iraq. Did all these European countries stand up and expel American diplomats for the invasion of Iraq that was far more serious? Of course not. This is part of a Cold War positioning with the West standing up against Russia and Russia responding.
But I think that if we are going to take such a strong action, we need firm proof and we need to begin presenting some of this evidence to the public. The people are supposed to go along passively with this kind of measure. In Britain, you look at what Jeremy Corbyn has said and Corbyn has remained skeptical, he is not saying that Russia didn't do it, he is saying why don't they share some of this kind of intelligence which they claim that they have.
Earl Rasmussen, the vice president of the Eurasia Center think tank, believes that the UK has used the Skripal case as a pretext.
“I think this is predetermined. We’ve got no evidence released or presented. We have a rush to judgment. There are a lot of political situations going on in the UK right now,” he told RT.
"Whether it is to increase defense budget, whether it is to increase political posturing or popularity, or whether it is in an attempt to control other countries. I think there is a greater geopolitical objective here," he continued.
According to Rasmussen, "if you look at some of the court documents, some of their biological scientist statements that were made regarding with the OPCW investigation, there is nothing specific, there is no direct correlation to Russia. They are very broad on their statements."
In his view, "we are jumping to conclusions, taking punitive action, endangering diplomatic relations prior to any completion of the investigation, prior to any actual evidence actually being presented. That is an embarrassment and definitely not a diplomatic way to solve a problem. I don't know if they really want to solve the problem."