Well done Pooters! My respectful congratulations to President Putin on his splendid victory in last Sunday’s presidential elections. If it was not unexpected, that was only because he is such a fine leader and the opposition isn’t up to much, frankly. If the Cabinet Office, Foreign Office and Theresa May hoped to undermine him with the absurd allegation over Salisbury they have been disappointed.
As I keep repeating, precisely because it’s worth repeating, intelligence analysis is an ongoing process. As new information comes to light you may have to review your original opinion. Not in this case. Such fresh evidence as has emerged has simply reinforced my view.
It is overwhelmingly likely that Russia had nothing to do with the disgraceful attack on Colonel Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury. It is also now absolutely clear that the British Government is acting in bad faith – they still haven’t even made the nerve agent samples available to the Russian government, for example. What are they trying to hide?
His Excellency the Russian Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s, Dr Alexander Yakovenko, gave a bravura performance at a press conference in London this week. He made mincemeat of the ruder journalists pushing the conspiracy theory that Russia was responsible.
I am happy to report that DS Nick Bailey, the Wiltshire detective who went to Col Skripal’s home to investigate, has now been released from Salisbury’s excellent District Hospital. Oddly enough, we were ordering lunch and supper from the same menu on Wednesday morning. (I went for the tasty vegetarian bake for supper, not sure what he had!) Word on the street is that the Skripals are doing well too, thankfully.
Neither the British government nor the MSM have come up with even a remotely credible motive for Russia trying to hit Col Skripal, a man they’d let go, and his daughter, who had been living peaceably in Moscow. As I pointed out last week, since he was swapped in a spy-swap, the Russians had even less reason to go after him.
No Russians in Salisbury
Another significant gap in the British government’s increasingly absurd narrative is any explanation of how the Novichok, if it did not come from Porton Down, actually got to Salisbury. This hole mirrors that in the silly conspiracy theory, with respect to those holding the contrary view, that Vladimir Putin ordered the ‘murder’ of Lt-Col Litvinenko in 2006. There was no Polonium trail from Moscow to London, only from London to Moscow.
Countries which stockpile Novichok
A key plank of the British government’s case, supported by the EU (no surprises there!), is that since only Russia has Novichok, Russia has to be responsible. This is the same British government of course, that treats exports to South Korea via Rotterdam as exports to the Netherlands in order to boost the economic importance of the EU. Since Britain herself has a small stockpile of Novichok, conveniently located near Salisbury at Porton Down, the British government’s claims are a fraud on the Russian government and people.
At this time it is not even clear that the list of countries which stockpile Novichok actually includes Russia. Chemical weapons are not really a Russian thing, although DVD assets inside the old KGB certainly favored them. (We shall probably need to revisit the 1978 assassination in London of Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov by the Bulgarian CSS’s Service 7, which looks increasingly to have been ordered by the DVD, not the KGB.)
Even when our community partners the Nazis were at the gate the Red Army did not resort to the use of chemical weapons. Poison gas is essentially a German thing. Russia has foresworn its use. Since the British government has not condescended to release it nobody knows what to make of their claim that they have evidence that the Russians are lying. There is no credible evidence in the public domain that Russia retains a stockpile of Novichok.
To the UK we can at least add Uzbekistan, where the stuff was mostly made, the Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and the Kingdom of Sweden as states which possess Novichok precursors. You don’t store it in mixed form of course – it’s dangerous, and once mixed it deteriorates rapidly. Since Novichok was an old Soviet Cold War program very frankly it’s difficult to rule out any of the former Soviet republics.
Theresa May’s claim of Russian responsibility is frankly junk. Doubts are starting to grow, as rational actors in the media and politics (there are a few, surprising as it may sound) start to fact check May’s assertions. The fact that they are supported by the EU, which is essentially an emanation of Nazi Germany (the plans for the EU were drawn up in 1939-1941 by the Reich Ministry of Economic Affairs) has of course damaged their credibility.
President Trump, who had the class this week to ring President Putin to congratulate him on his thumping victory, is wisely continuing to put distance between himself and Downing St on this one. As I understand it, your President didn’t even raise the issue of Salisbury in the phone call, and rightly so. Since it was nothing to do with Russia there was no need to.
Western governments and media continue to lie about MH17. I have not yet seen a government report which attempts to grapple with the fact that the pro-Russian rebels blamed for the disaster lacked access to the arming codes for the Buk missile system in their possession, for example.
I was amazed to learn this week that some websites are still pushing the discredited claim the Sukhoi-25 cannot reach FL330 (33’000 ft), the altitude MH17 was flying at when it was shot down. The issue is not whether a -25 can reach FL330 – clearly it can, on combat power. The issue is why has the desperate lie that it could not been persisted in for so long?
Service ceiling for the Su-25M, of which the Ukrainian Air Force has at least two examples, is 33,000 ft and higher with combat power. In any event the Ukrainians didn’t need armor-plate to fire at an unarmed 777. As I have pointed out on these pages before the -25 has a heavy, titanium armor ‘bath’ designed to protect the pilot from ground fire. Remove that and you immediately buy yourself extra performance.
You won’t find any of these points acknowledged on Wikipedia. The intellectual dishonesty of those pushing the ‘Russian rebel’ conspiracy theory is breath-taking.
Who will replace Theresa May?
It really doesn’t matter whether Theresa May actually believes the nonsense about Salisbury or not. Either she’s so house-trained that she allowed the Cabinet Office to pull the wool over her eyes or she has deliberately accused a friendly foreign government of a serious crime it didn’t commit. She has to go, period. The only questions are the timing and who her successor will be. The Russian government, who are kulturny, are unlikely to insist that she stand trial in Moscow for slandering President Putin.
Boris Johnson was the favored candidate to win the Tory leadership battle which would follow May’s resignation, emphasising that she would probably stay on as caretaker. (The alternative caretaker PM would be my old MP, the oleaginous, no offense intended, David Lidington, who, like May, backed my malicious bomb hoax prosecution.)
The problem is that Boris has put his foot in it over Salisbury. I like Boris, but there are gaffes and there are gaffes. Comparing Russia’s holding of the World Cup with the 1936 Berlin Olympics was a monster, Convair B-36-sized gaffe. I’m not sure there’s any way back for Boris from that one.
There is a lot of talk in my Party of that nice young man Jacob Rees-Mogg. Jacob is a class act, with respect, as was his late father before him. (Sir William, who was a former Editor of the Times, was a client of mine at one point in the Maastricht litigation.) Jacob, like his father, is a gentleman, and a member of MCC. He also went to a good school (Eton). The argument against him has always been his lack of Cabinet experience, but after a fiasco like this that now counts as a plus.
Theresa May’s silly allegations don’t just damage her, the Cabinet Office and the National Security Council, they damage the entire Cabinet. That’s because they reflect so poorly on their judgment. How could serious men and women of affairs have gone along with such an incendiary accusation on such flimsy evidence?
Jacob is beginning to look rather like Sir Winston Churchill in 1940 – a great man waiting in the wings. It would be a huge relief to have the country governed in good faith once again. Priti Patel would be an obvious replacement for Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary.
If we move smartly to offload Theresa May we could get HM the Queen to the Opening Ceremony of the World Cup in Russia in June. I’m sure the Russian people would love to see Her and that She would be given an emotional welcome. No doubt the incoming government would be making it up to Russia in other ways too, such as scrapping the EU’s offensive, German-inspired sanctions and recognising Russia’s perfectly proper annexation of the Crimea.
Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson may lack education, with respect, but he does not lack for low animal cunning. He made some astute remarks this week about the need for robust fisheries enforcement after Brexit (we’ve decided to retain three Offshore Patrol Vessels to help protect our waters from Spanish predators). Williamson knows that Spanish pirate boats are likely to try it on after next March.
He also knows that the country wants some dead Europeans, as long as they’re killed lawfully of course. Our OPVs are armed with 20 mil Oerlikon deck guns. Not the biggest gun you can buy, admittedly, but enough to put a hole in the average Spanish fishing trawler.
Obviously the Navy would not be justified in opening fire unless the Spaniard violated our maritime frontier and refused to strike his colors when ordered to do so. Should he be insolent enough to defy the lawful order of the captain of a British Man’o’War, however, then he could be sent to Davey Jones’ Locker and rightly so, which would make Brexit even jollier.
Gavin is clearly on maneuvers!
My commiserations to France on the loss of this gallant and courageous officer, a veteran of Iraq. He voluntarily took the place of a lady hostage at the supermarket siege in Trèbes, France this week, and was then shot in the throat by the nasty, dual national Moroccan/French terrorist Redouane Lakdim. Lakdim is now an ex-terrorist, having been very properly shot by Lt-Col’s Beltrame’s colleagues.
In his dying hours, Lt-Col Beltrame married his fiancée, Mariele. Both she and France can take great pride in Arnaud Beltrame. I hope that he is posthumously decorated for gallantry, that the French Navy name a warship in his honor and that his widow Mariele is shown every courtesy and consideration that the French State can give her.
Respectful congratulations to John on his appointment as National Security Adviser, trailed in last week’s column. Now we may see some action! John has sound views, with respect, on North Korea, Iran, the EU and other evil dictatorships.
My Sinus Op
As you can probably tell, I came round from the anesthetic! In fact I had a nice, lady British anesthesioligist – no Germans in sight. I was out light like a light, and woke up fresh as a daisy, almost.
I cannot praise my medical team and the nursing staff at Salisbury District Hospital too highly. I received devoted care and I am most grateful.
Professor Stephen Hawking CH CBE FRS FRSA (1942 – 2018)
There aren’t that many of us geniuses about, so it’s always sad when one departs! I say that with all due modesty of course.
Stephen Hawking displayed great physical as well as moral courage. Motor neurone is a dreadful disease, as I know only too well, having lost my much-loved aunt Zita (Zita Barnett OBE) to it twenty years ago. Diagnosis had improved by the time Zita’s illness was discovered and doctors had become aware that there are two main forms, one much less aggressive.
The medical advice Stephen was given in the 60s was perfectly reasonable, and reflected known outcomes of MND. However he was able to prove his doctors wrong, something I’m sure they didn’t mind.
It is entirely right that his ashes should be interred in Westminster Abbey near the tomb of that other great British physicist, Sir Isaac Newton. Stephen and I never met, but I’m sure that he was a lovely man. I doubt he was easy to live with – we geniuses rarely are! The problem is that geniuses have a broad intellectual bandwidth. They can be resolving great questions whilst doing the ironing or watching TV, leading to the inevitable accusation that they “are not concentrating on what they are doing”. Oh yes, they are.
I’m not saying that Stephen Hawking and I were in agreement on everything – he was inclined to believe in man-made global warming and I think he bought into Einstein’s disproved theory that humanity cannot travel faster than the speed of light. (Whole galaxies are traveling faster than the speed of light, never mind a single interstellar spaceship!) His contributions to cosmology and quantum gravity however were enormous. He was a man with his feet on the ground and his head in the stars. Space telescopes and, in due course, spaceships, should be named after him.
Sir Ken Dodd OBE (1927-2018)
Sir Ken was a genius of a different sort – a comic genius. Comics are usually smarter than they let on, BTW, unlike politicians, who usually are not nearly as smart as they pretend.
A lifelong resident of Knotty Ash, near Liverpool, Ken Dodd was the last of the great stand-up comedians. He could hold an audience for hours and unusually for a northern comic commanded a loyal following in the south of England.
I’m not sure that much of his humor would translate across the Atlantic, but I rather liked his old Cold War joke; “knock on the door of the Kremlin, go no, knock on their door and ask, ‘is Len in?’” Lenin would have got it, I’m sure.
A national treasure, Sir Ken was the victim of one of the cruelest and silliest prosecutions of all time, for tax evasion. He was somewhat disorganised, but was as honest as the day is long. The jury rightly chucked the case out. It is to the lasting shame of the Cabinet Office, which controls criminal prosecutions in England, that it was ever brought.
Revd Billy Graham KBE (1918-2018)
The third good man to die in recent weeks was the Revd Billy Graham. As I have often explained, I’m not religious – I’m an Anglican. That doesn’t prevent me from admiring a great Christian like Billy Graham, however.
Hugely influential, with a wonderful voice, he was the greatest evangelist of his time. He was a good man, and a great American.
Michael Shrimpton was a barrister from his call to the Bar in London in 1983 until being disbarred in 2019 over a fraudulently obtained conviction. He is a specialist in National Security and Constitutional Law, Strategic Intelligence and Counter-terrorism. He is a former Adjunct Professor of Intelligence Studies at the American Military University.