(Well, I'm back... more or less. Before I get on to today's blog, a word of thanks to everyone who sent well wishes and prayers and so on, and also to all of you who kept the articles coming in. You'll note that there have been no blogs since last Thursday, but that doesn't indicate how long I had this stuff. It actually began a week ago today. The pre-scheduled blogs ran until they ran out. In any case, I'm back, more or less, though I'm still not 100%.)
If you've been following the Skripal spy case, then you'll know that things have taken a turn into the surreal. I'm reminded of the old television situation comedy Green Acres with Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor, which was something of a twisted mix-up between Hee Haw and Salvadore Dali; the plots and storylines were so self-evidently absurd that one kept watching just to see what sort of nonsense would follow. Lisa - played with remorselessly chic and stupid elegance by Eva Gabor - was often so confused that she would notice the "credits" at the beginning of each episode, and sometimes read them.
That's the feeling I get when I'm watching the May Government "handle" the Skripal spy case: Lisa is reading the credits and other prompts in her already badly-written screenplay: "No, Minister, those lines in parentheses are what you're supposed to do, not say... Take two!" Mrs. Thatcher could and would occasionally go off script and she could get away with it because whatever else one thought about her, she was not stupid. Watching Mrs. May, I have to wonder if she even knows what a script is.
Why am I bothering you with all this? Well, consider the latest developments(and I have to thank so many of you who found and sent various versions of these updates):
First, Britain's major chemical and biological weapons facility, Porton Down, has not been able to conclusively prove that the alleged "nerve agent" used on Skripal is from Russia:
But never mind, because the "case" against Russia, we were assured, was absolutely air tight and compelling, even though the central feature of the story linking the whole affair to Russia can't be proven. One senses, perhaps, a bit of double entendre in the Ministry of Defence's quip about letting the Government "piece together the conclusions."
Wait, it gets better: Secondly, Yulia Skripal is now apparently not only still alive, but awake from her deadly nerve gas attack, which turns out not to have been so deadly (and maybe not even nerve gas, but we'll get back to that):
Now, just in case you missed it, the screenplay writers at the New York Times were kind enough to point it out:
Russian television broadcast a telephone recording on Thursday said to be of Yulia Skripal, who was poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent a month ago and is at the center of an escalating confrontation between Russia and Britain.
In the recording, which the Rossiya 24 news announcer emphasized could not be verified, Ms. Skripal tells her cousin Viktoria that both she and her father, Sergei V. Skripal, are healthy, and that neither of them has suffered long-term health damage from the poisoning. The recording contradicted public statements by the British authorities, who have described Mr. Skripal’s condition as “critical but stable” and said that only Ms. Skripal was conscious.
Within hours of the program’s broadcast, the British police released a statement on Ms. Skripal’s behalf, in which she said that she “woke up over a week ago now” and that her “strength is growing daily.”
Now, whether or not the telephone calls actually occurred, the important point here is to note that the U.K. appears to agree with the Russians that Yulia Skripal is alive, and more or less "well" and "conscious." And this raises a few questions:
On the first two points we are now told that Yulia Skripal’s condition has significantly improved to the point where she is said to be recovering well and talking. However, although this provides something of an answer to these questions, it also raises a number of others. Is she finally being allowed consular access? Is she being allowed to speak to her fiancé, her grandmother, or her cousin by telephone? Most importantly, how does her recovery comport with the claim that she was poisoned with a “military-grade nerve agent” with a toxicity around 5-8 times that of VX nerve agent? (Italicized emphasis added)
This is precisely where my problems with this whole story began, for why would Russia choose such a method to kill a spy that it once had in its possession and traded to Britain? If Russia wanted Skripal dead, he would be, by now, well and truly dead, no ifs, ands, or buts. But now we have survivors of a toxic nerve gas attack, which suggests that the "attack" might not have been a nerve gas attack - or any other kind of attack - at all. Indeed, Viktoria Skripal - in the most Green Acres aspect of the story to come out - went so far as to suggest that the whole episode may have just been a case of food poisoning and "bad fish."
So what's the high octane speculation here?
From the outset, this story has been like a mackerel on a moonlit beach: it both shines and stinks. Nothing about the story made sense when it broke, and it makes even less sense now, and as it appears to be falling apart, one senses that Mrs. May and U.K. Secretary of State Boris Johnson are becoming a little camera-and-microphone shy. Mr. Johnson is not a stupid man, and his unequivocal statements to various western media that the nerve agent was definitely from Russia have me wondering something that no one appears to be asking; Russia, for example, has recently floated the idea that this was all a bungled operation of British intelligence, with the subtext (Yes, you can read these subtitles Lisa): Mrs May and Mr. Johnson are lying. But given Mr. Johnson's repeated, and unequivocal statements to various Western media, I have to wonder if, rather, he and Mrs. May were lied to. To what purpose? I can only speculate, but very little of this, I suspect, has to do with Russia. As a crisis of opportunity, it certainly could be and was used to expel Russian diplomats whom the various western Governments probably wanted to expel anyway. The story presented itself as a crisis of opportunity to do so. Nothing more. The real fallout of the episode now appears to be reaching out to engulf the May government, to weaken it substantially and perhaps even to topple it. In other words, the whole thing was, as they say, a "set up."
To what end? Again, I can only speculate, but if this whole bizarre scenario is to make any sense at all, then there is one big issue that, perhaps, certain sectors of Europe would not want Mrs. May or Mr. Johnson "poking around" and asking "too many difficult questions" at "this difficult time" when "Mrs. Merkel has so many issues on her plate," like the looming European banking problems, the Italian election results, and so on. The big issue looming in the background of all this is, of course, BREXIT. The last thing, the very last thing that Frau Merkel or her faithful lap-poodle Jean-Claude Juncker wants right now is a strong government in London. Solution? Create a distraction for the May government, which, with any luck, may even weaken it. In other words, in the Skripal case, all roads may lead, not to Moscow, or to London, but to Brussels and to Berlin.
I wouldn't put it past them, and neither should you...
See you on the flip side...