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PRC90 • 2 years ago

Get your Skripalmania here !

(i) Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, the groovy countersurveillance guru's from GRU ? These guys were actively **trying** to get onto every CCTV camera they could find. And catching the train home ?

(ii) I find it difficult to believe that the Brit IC would not have automated imagery collection set up around a recent Russian defector's house, as a bare minimum level of surveillance. Theresa May's inconveniently missing ace card would have been imagery from that, showing our obvious GRU men doing something outside the front gate, etc. Without that, we'll just have to take her word for it.

While aerosol spraying a nerve agent sounds just a little bit dangerous, the door handle concept is plausible if whatever was used (I use the word 'was' not 'they') was a slow reacting binary using inert precursors, probably similar to what apparently knocked off Kim's bro.

The rest of the story, well..

Barbara Ann • 2 years ago

Laurel and Hardy, whoever they are and whatever their business, were either lured to Salisbury by MI-6, or otherwise the hit was timed to coincide with their visit. Hey presto a unbelievable coincidence that 2 Russians traveled specifically and can be placed, more or less, at the scene.

John Waddell • 2 years ago

Whoever chose the Skripal house knew what they were doing. It is up a dead end or cul de sac with excellent visibility down it and many houses to pass to get to the house. Perfect for CCTV coverage.

Varg • 2 years ago

How comes he felt so safe there after all those murders of Russian expats? How many by now? The state should have taken care?

smoothieX12 . • 2 years ago

Note to myself: don't visit UK.

Patrick Armstrong • 2 years ago

I see, and have seen, no reason to change my initial reaction https://patrickarmstrong.ca...

PRC90 • 2 years ago

If we regard Novichok not purely as a Russian CW agent as it is portrayed in popular culture, but rather as a situation where people fall over sick or dead and everyone blames it on Russian malice, then I suggest there may be more Novichok's in the future. The probability of this would be about the same as the probability of the existing events being actually 'not as they are described in Theresa May's convenient imprimatur of authenticity', ie., somewhat greater than zero..

It's therefore possible, seeing how the existing events have been spun, to design at least the time and place elements of a new Novichok event for maximum payoff against the Russians. Any ideas ? I would include at least one real Russian (at last).

Yes Colonel, I agree we are getting a bit close to the edge here.

TTG • 2 years ago

Patrick, thanks for pointing out the Clinton-Yeltsin conversations. They were fascinating, as were those times. Of course I followed the dramatic road to Lithuanian independence along with all the other dramatic changes of that era. I happened to be in Berlin and witnessed the silent protest in front of the Soviet Embassy the night Gorbachev was placed under house arrest. The "Pristina Dash" was breathtaking. After that, I stood and saluted the forlorn Russian soldiers guarding the Soviet War Memorial in Berliner Tiergarten. The Russian OIC returned my salute. Prior to Yeltsin's rise, I thought Gorbachev was in similar dire straits. I learned of some conversations of his that showed how weak and desperate his position was. I wish I could share.

David Habakkuk • 2 years ago


They were indeed fascinating times, and the conversations cast a very valuable light on them.

The conclusion of Helmer’s piece I find particularly interesting:

“What a rich irony Yeltsin leaves us in this record of his dealings with Clinton,” observes a senior Soviet officer now retired in Moscow. “Yeltsin proves that because negotiations with the Americans are impossible, and because Russians will not capitulate, war is inevitable. And this from the Communist Party veteran, the Politburo member, who was brought up to believe war was inevitable between communism and capitalism. And he, self-appointed liberator of Russia from communism, ends up proving he didn’t free us from war with the Americans at all. Ha!”

As it happens, while I almost always find what Helmer has to say interesting, I also often think one needs to take what he writes with, say, a certain amount of salt.

The notion that war between the capitalist and communist worlds was in some way fatalistically inevitable, which had been central to Soviet pronouncements through until Stalin’s death, and was a significant cause of the Cold War, was actually abandoned thereafter, although the jettisoning of the whole structure of ludicrous dogma had to wait for four further decades.

That said, what Helmer writes comes together with recent reminders of my own experience of the closing years of the Soviet Union.

So, ‘C-SPAN’ have posted an interview and Q & A session given by Michael MccGwire, credited as ‘Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution,’ on 3 February 1989. The description of the origins of the Gorbachev ‘new thinking’, and the revolutionary changes it implied, was that he gave to myself and a BBC Radio colleague when we interviewed him, it would have been a few days later.

(See https://www.c-span.org/pers... )

As MccGwire said, when asked to describe himself, ‘I went to sea when I was seventeen, I’m basically an ex-naval officer.’

Actually, he had been chief cadet captain at the Dartmouth naval college, and before he turned eighteen had had a ‘worm’s eye’ view both of the crucial ‘Operation Pedestal’ convoy, which relieved Malta in August 1942, and of the North African landings the following November.

After the war, he opted for Russian language training, and became the Royal Navy’s pre-eminent expert on its Soviet counterpart.

Another fascinating document which I came across recently was a piece published in March 1992 by Lieutenant Colonel Timothy L .Thomas of the Foreign Military Studies Office, entitled ‘Soviet Military Theoretician A.A. Kokoshin.’

(See http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr... )

This gives a good summary of the intellectual innovations introduced by Kokoshin and his collaborator General-Mayor Valentin Larionov. The pair had outlined them to us in interviews in Moscow immediately before we flew to Washington to interview MccGwire and others. The piece also touched on the bitter public row, sometime after we did the interviews, between Georgy Arbatov, then Kokoshin’s superior at the Institute of the USA and Canada, and Marshal Sergei Akhromeyev.

I received one of the greatest compliments of my journalistic career when Larionov asked us who else we were interviewing, and when we told him, said, ‘I see you’ve got everybody.’

Unfortunately, at that time I had not come across the Soviet Army Studies Office, as what is now the FMSO then was.

Had I done so, and in particular talked to one of its key analysts, Jacob W. Kipp (who incidentally had started his academic career writing on Russian naval history, and was a friend of MccGwire), I would have had a better grasp of what Larionov was trying to say, when he talked about a Soviet theorist of the ‘Twenties, Aleksandr Svechin, who he said had been ‘repressed’ under Stalin.

Like Arbatov, Larionov was a near contemporary of MccGwire. The former had been one of the young men who heard Stalin’s speech of 7 November 1941 in Red Square, before marching out to defend the city. The latter had gone into the army the following year, and seen action at the battles of Kursk, Warsaw, Prague and Berlin – also, incidentally, been at one of the meetings with U.S. Army people in the heart of Germany.

(I now think the experience may have contributed to a certain sentimental streak, absent in someone I wanted to interview, but could not, because I got my application in too late – that old Tatar calvaryman from Chelyabinsk, another ‘old Mohican’, the then Colonel-General Makhmut Akhmetovich Gareev.)

It had taken me some months of patient and unremunerated effort – I had left the securities, and tedium, of a big television company for the fledgling independent sector some time earlier – to find anyone in British broadcasting willing to take up the idea of going to Moscow and interviewing the ‘new thinkers.’

By that time, ex-colleagues of mine, most of them sometime ‘Sixties and ‘Seventies ‘lefties’, were in key positions in British broadcasting. But the process by which many such people turned into ‘neoconservatives’ and ‘neoliberals’ was well under way.

I have been thinking that I should perhaps write a memoir of my encounters with such people. An initial thought for a title was ‘From CND to CIA’ – but that seemed to me overgeneral about the latter organisation. So it seemed ‘From Joni Mitchell to Joe McCarthy’ might be better.

Reading the drunken Yeltsin’s pathetic implorings to Clinton, what I hear is his desperate attempt to avoid the conclusion that the advice that people like Kokoshin and Larionov – and also, let us not forget, Primakov, whom the Americans appear to have regarded as anathema, but who played a very important role in the ‘new thinking’ – was hopelessly naive. As became clear, Makhmut Gareev, who became the first President of the new Academy of Military Sciences after the Soviet collapse, was far closer to reality.

And the notion, underlying the piece by Lt.-Col Thomas, that Arbatov was simply right, and Akhromeyev simply wrong, in their bitter argument, was effectively refuted by Clinton.

I have followed the careers of some of those we interviewed back in 1989, and their colleagues, over the years.

At the Institute of the USA and Canada, it had seemed sensible not to interview Georgy Arbatov, the director, but his deputy, Kokoshin, who together with Larionov, had together been doing the detailed technical work. At the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, we did not ask for Primakov, who headed it, but for Arbatov’s son Alexei, who was again doing detailed technical work on the interrelations between military and political strategy.

At the then newly-founded Institute of Europe, we interviewed the director, Vitaly Zhurkin, rather than his deputy, Sergei Karaganov – also, I have seen it reported, a close associate of Primakov.

Among the most interesting evolutions has been that of Karaganov.

A few days ago, on the site of the ‘Valdai Club’, there appeared a post by him, reflecting the work of a study group, which was entitled ‘Why Russia’s “Pivot to Asia” is About Coming Back Home.’

(See http://valdaiclub.com/a/hig... .)

It opens: ‘In a few years we will understand that we are no longer the eastern periphery slowly disappearing into the past, although close to most of Europe. Moving to Asia, to new wealth, strength and progress, we return home.’

Ironically, that power would naturally shift towards new centres was a part of Michael MccGwire’s critiques of Western responses to the ‘new thinking.’

But then, he was not a stinking little ‘gutter rat’ like Christopher Steele, who of course, was recruited into MI6 in 1986, and sent to Moscow in 1990. How people in the United States go on taking such a figure seriously defeats me. For God’s sake, why did you bother having a revolution?

In between, Steele was working at the Foreign Office in London. At that time, that organisation was completely and utterly clueless about what was happening in the Soviet Union. I know, I went there for a briefing. But frankly, what all their quite well paid and connected people could produce was vastly inferior to what I could manage, on my own, unpaid by anybody, with the resources of Chatham House and the ‘London Library.’

When we finally made it back from Moscow and Washington to London, we interviewed the Foreign Office Minister, William Waldegrave. He was – is – a nice man, but, frankly, did not have a clue. So likewise, Tom Simons of the State Department, whose total ignorance of how empires actually work I found remarkable.

TTG • 2 years ago

Thanks for pointing out Tim Thomas' piece on Kokoshin. It is a great read. I think our FMSO is a national treasure. I knew Tim Thomas and learned a lot about Russian and Chinese views of information operations during our conversations.

Varg • 2 years ago

The "Pristina Dash" was breathtaking
Was that you, making me aware of it? I had a difficult time about two/three years later at the same location. Getting a colleague back home whose flight had been cancelled. ...Ok, cannot be compared. Anyway, it was interesting to learn about the incident.

more interesting you fold it in here. We may have similar mental shortcuts.

Varg • 2 years ago

Patrick, great roundup. What I found interesting, to the extend I read it, of the interview on RT are the references to the impact inside Russia. I'll scanned Murray, both actually, rather superficially. But if you tell me it makes sense to look into "the entrails", I'll do so. There no doubt were a couple of déjà vu felt arguments he challenges, on admittedly pretty superficial scan.

Ok, to the extend I got their business, I admittedly wondered about that. But why not? Beyond that I am surely pleased they like old churches too. ;)

David Optional Guyatt • 2 years ago

"Check out this story and see what you think"

It appears the Daily Mail Online article you linked above was based on faked emails. The Mail pulled the story a couple of days later and later still paid £100k in settlement of a libel suit by Britam Defence:


Patrick Armstrong • 2 years ago

You're telling me what I already know. I asked what do you think? Bearing in mind the severity of UK libel laws. The small fine. The exquisite precision of the finding. And, most importantly, the overall context. Unless you think Assad is a devotee of Sun TZnever.

David Optional Guyatt • 2 years ago

"I asked what you think?"

I think the two emails are fake. The identical time stamp of 23.57.18 on both, yet being sent 69 days apart is very suggestive of this and it is a reasonable conclusion to reach:


The size of the libel fee paid wasn't unusual. A week before the Mail had paid out £125k in another libel case.


This, however, doesn't alter my mind on other CW events in Syria that clearly have been false flags.

Barbara Ann • 2 years ago

Great update Patrick, thanks. Do you know if the Colonel's "Dishy Blonde" (Maria Zakharova) has any higher political ambitions? I watched this tour de force and immediately wondered if the next President of Russia would look good in pink? https://www.youtube.com/wat...

Youtube helpfully warns me that this channel is "funded in whole or in part by the Russian government", so it won't be around much longer I guess. And speaking of the Skripals and the Orwellian dystopia we are rapidly descending into, I see another (albeit minor) dissenting voice has been silenced. Never mind #WalkAway, I'm off to VK.


Patrick Armstrong • 2 years ago

As to VK I've moved my operations there too. See you.


Pat Lang • 2 years ago


Patrick Armstrong • 2 years ago

V kontakte (in contact) the Russian Facebook. Not as flexible as FB but rapidly filling up with people who are abandoning FB for much of the reasons I give above.

Peter Williams • 2 years ago

ВКонтакте https://en.wikipedia.org/wi... a Russian social media site similar to facebook with a very good built-in messaging service. It's available in a number of languages and seems to have far fewer censorship problems compared with facebook.

Patrick Armstrong • 2 years ago

Dunno. But here's two other possibilities. https://en.wikipedia.org/wi... or https://en.wikipedia.org/wi.... Latter probably too old. But I would be the last to rule out possibility of Putin picking a woman. There are more female executives in Russia than anywhere else. https://www.rt.com/business...

smoothieX12 . • 2 years ago

Matvienko is not really liked. Natasha is somewhat on a wild side with her "Tzarebozhie", albeit the girl is one tough cookie and commands respect of many (mine too), but Masha (Maria)--she may end in UN as Rep and that is a trampoline to the head of MID. She is a whole package.

Pat Lang • 2 years ago

Graham Fuller is a man for no season.