Weak delayed Ardern response to Russian issue

Jacinda Ardern has been strongly criticised for what is seen as weak responses to the Russian poisoning issue in the United Kingdom, putting New Zealand out of step with most of Europe.

She has also been ridiculed internationally for effectively saying that she would have expelled Russians but couldn’t find any spies.

RNZ:  PM’s spy comments make NZ ‘a laughing stock’

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s statement that New Zealand is not home to any Russian spies is being met with scepticism, and scoffing, internationally.

This prompted some waffle: Russian ‘intelligence activity’ in NZ – Peters

Foreign Minister Winston Peters says he has been advised by the Security Intelligence Service that there is Russian intelligence activity in New Zealand.

That comes as countries including Canada, Australia, the US, and EU and eastern European nations joined the UK in expelling dozens of Russian diplomats and declared intelligence staff.

In Parliament this afternoon, Mr Peters said he and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had been advised by the SIS that there were no individuals in New Zealand fitting the profile of those being expelled by other countries.

“But here’s the real point, the NZSIS advises it is aware of Russian intelligence activity in New Zealand, and where is it seen appropriate action is taken.”

Speaking to journalists outside the debating chamber, Mr Peters was asked to explain exactly what he meant.

“The description that was seeing people expelled in other embassies offshore, did not apply in New Zealand.

“But that outside of the embassy, where it did, action had been taken in the past and would continue to be taken – that’s the precise advise [both the Prime Minister and myself] got.”

Usually when it comes to diplomatic expulsions it’s a numbers game, with no proof of spying worried about.

Also it seems in the face of criticism Ardern reacted belatedly yesterday: Govt considers slapping travel bans on some Russians

New Zealand is now the only member of the Five Eyes spying alliance not to have taken action against Russia over the nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, southern England.

Britain blames Russia for the attack on its former spy.

Canada, Australia, the United States and countries in the European Union have all joined Britain in booting out dozens of Russian diplomats and spies.

But here, the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern insisted there are no Russian secret agents to expel.

The government was now weighing up travel bans, she said, and was not cosying up to Russia.

“Not at all – the most appropriate action that I could take as Prime Minister is get advice from intelligence services on whether there was anyone that we should be expelling from New Zealand immediately.

“I did that, they advised me there wasn’t.”

“I’ve now asked MFAT (Foreign Affairs Ministry) to advise me on whether there are people who should be the subject of visa exclusions for New Zealand as well.”

This still looks like pussyfooting – trying to be seen to be considering doing something, maybe, but trying not to get offside with the Russians.

When it comes to foreign affairs and Russia – first the surprise and controversial Labour-NZ First agreement to pursue a trade deal with Russia despite putting others at risk, and now the poisoning repercussions, Ardern and Peters seem to be uncomfortable allies.

Ultimately it is Ardern’s responsibility how New Zealand deals with things like this, and the indecision is making her look weak internationally, and out of synch and weak in dealing with Peters.

24 Comments

  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  March 30, 2018

    Just another Ardern mess. Get used to them. There will be more.

    • PDB

       /  March 30, 2018

      Considering we have recently discovered she isn’t even running the Labour party the fact she isn’t running the country should shock no one.

  2. artcroft

     /  March 30, 2018

    I think her officials advice about undeclared spies was accurate, but once Winston went on his Russia love fest, Ardern was always going to have to force the pendulum back the other way to balance the optics. She didn’t and now looks weak again.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  March 30, 2018

      Does she expect spies to put ‘spy’ on their passports as their occupation ?

      • Gezza

         /  March 30, 2018

        🤔
        Not a bad idea. Would certainly make things a lot simpler for everybody. 🕶

        • NOEL

           /  March 30, 2018

          Well they can and do. They can declare their intelligence affiliation when they present their credential, hence declared or undeclared.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  March 31, 2018

          I have known four spies, if you count old Mrs M________, the church spy. The others were official ones, so to speak.

  3. Patzcuaro

     /  March 30, 2018

    I wonder if the presence of a Russian oliogach at Helena Bay in Northland has anything to do with Peter’s Russian love fest. Russians, racing and fishing, there is money sloshing around there.

  4. David

     /  March 30, 2018

    This is hard to fathom. The only thing that could make sense is Winston has made a commitment to someone or is bloody minded and Ardern is so absolutely weak that she cant pull his head in.
    Eventually she is going to have to smack the Russians like everyone else and being dragged into doing it is just dumb politics and she is not dumb at politics. She had a way out of the embarrassingly slow support of the UK but flunked it….its odd.

    • Gezza

       /  March 30, 2018

      She’s certainly coming across as having no authority over Peters beyond what he allows her to pretend she has, when it suits him.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  March 30, 2018

        She is, as I predicted, way out of her depth as PM, and it can only become worse when little Karl/a arrives. I must confess to not having too much sympathy for her.

  5. Blazer

     /  March 30, 2018

    this is high farce…’what do you mean you can’t find any Russian..spies?..we’re tripping over them in the U.K!Demonise Russia programme in full force.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  March 30, 2018

      Spun right off the track. Seriously weird.

    • David

       /  March 30, 2018

      this silly idiot has made a name for himself for the last 6 years doing exactly this, he is a terrible lawyer I hear

  6. Blazer

     /  March 30, 2018

    Breaking news …Daniel Craig is flying in to root out any Russian spies,male or…female.

    • Patzcuaro

       /  March 30, 2018

      Working titles for new Bond film to be set in NZ.
      “Bond Downunder” or
      “Mr No” or
      “From Russia with Novichok”

      Lead Baddy Winston “Mr No” Peters
      Offsiders
      Ron Mark in charge of air transport
      Shane Jones in charge of landing rights
      Jenny Marcroft in charge of slush fund

      • Gezza

         /  March 30, 2018

        Clare Curran handling Comms, PR, & Press Announcements.

        • Patzcuaro

           /  March 30, 2018

          We could probably get her to right the script while she is at “Astoria”. It could be set in the provinces using money from the Provincial Growth Fund. Ron Air could province logistics with Jenny Marcroft splashing the cash to remove impediments.

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  March 30, 2018

            Could Jenny Marcroft have been played for a mug ?