Russian judgment – “Winston Peters and Jeremy Corbyn are sane voices”

There have been claims that Russia has been set up over the allegations of nerve gas poisoning in Salisbury, England, ranging from valid questions to conspiracy theories.

Mike Smith at The Standard says that “Winston Peters and Jeremy Corbyn are sane voices calling for evidence” and suggests that there are “all the signs of another false flag operation” in Russian to Judgment.

The possible poisoning of Sergei Skripal and the consequent  hysteria have all the signs of another false flag operation, as we saw before the second American invasion of Iraq. The chain of circumstantial evidence has more holes in it than a swiss cheese, and while  attempted murder (if that is what it is) is a criminal act Winston Peters and Jeremy Corbyn are sane voices calling for evidence before any attribution still less action.

Smith questions whether anyone was poisoned at all – “possible poisoning”.

What we don’t know is what evidence may (or may not) have been circulated around intelligence agencies and governments.

Its not hard to see why the British government would like to draw attention away from the looming disaster of their bungled Brexit. The French and Americans are also unhappy about the continuation of Assad’s government in Syria. With the sudden firing of Rex Tillerson and the looming exit of McMaster, the neocons are firmly in charge in Washington and we know what that led to in 2003.

The situation now in Washington is very different to 2003, as the US reacted to the 911 attacks.

Helen Clark’s Labour-led government took a principled stance not to support George W. Bush’s  “coalition of the willing,” and no doubt had to withstand considerable pressure to do so. It is concerning to read that the British High Commissioner is briefing New Zealand media about Theresa May’s view of events, and sending out barely disguised threats in an attempt to interfere in our trade policies.

Smith seems to be a fan of Winston’s attempts to negotiate a trade agreement with Russia despite opposing the TPPA.

It is not as though we haven’t seen anti-Russian hysteria before. Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report seems to have gone full ‘Dancing Cossacks,’ following the lead of CNN which has led the charge in Washington since the election of Donald Trump.

Who sounds hysterical?

We live in a very uncertain and dangerous world and New Zealand is not immune. The Doomsday Clock is at two minutes to midnight. Now more than ever we do not nee to seed tensions escalate on such flimsy grounds as the latest beat-up. We need to maintain our independence and our principles, and not be sucked into other people’s wars.

Smith was asked in comments what signs there were of a false flag operation. He responded:

Signs of a false flag operation are those similar to the lead-up to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. I was in Canada in early 2002 watching hyped-up American television in my hotel room. I came back and reported to the Labour caucus that America was going to invade. A year later they did.

One sign is heightened tone in the media allied with treating allegation as fact.

Those signs sound flimsy – “heightened tone in the media” is hardly unusual, nor is “treating allegation as fact”.

A false flag operation is a terrorist act committed by one group for the express purpose of discrediting another group, which is framed for it.

Smith is suggesting that Russia has been framed, but he doesn’t specify who he thinks framed them, but the obvious implication is the UK and perhaps the US.

Smith also said:

Nobody’s giving deference to an oligarchy – just don’t want more war, and as for ramping up nuclear capabilities that’s more true of the US at the moment.

Few people want war, especially between nuclear powers, but as for ramping up nuclear capabilities – Russia’s Putin unveils ‘invincible’ nuclear weapons (BBC): The weapons he boasted of included a cruise missile that he said could “reach anywhere in the world”. He said of the West: “They need to take account of a new reality and understand … [this]… is not a bluff.”

What Smith asserts is at odds with our Government response. Jacinda Ardern on The Nation yesterday:

Okay. Well, let’s move on to an entirely different topic. Britain is out kicking 23 Russian diplomats, aka spies. Now, this is over the nerve-gas attack in Salisbury, and things are really ratcheting up. The US has issued sanctions; this is over interference with elections. So are we going to join any further sanctions in relation to Russia if we are asked?

Yeah, and, obviously, we’re working very closely with the UK and other partners. We’ve joined with them in saying these actions are repugnant. We’ve made strong statements in The Hague over it as well. The use of nerve agents–

But what about actual sanctions?

The use of nerve agents is an illegal international act. So at the moment, it is a matter of keeping in close contact with our partners to see what actions they’re taking. At the moment, they’ve isolated down in the UK and dealing with them at an individual diplomat level, but it is a matter of making sure that we’re in constant contact as those decisions are made.

So at the moment, you’re not ruling out the possibility of expulsions from New Zealand?

We haven’t ruled anything in or out at this stage, because, as we say, we’re working closely with our partners, and this is an ongoing matter, but we’ve been very clear this is an illegal act; it is a repugnant act.

A quite different view of Russia in Ardern stumbles badly on Putin-Peters axis:

…since invading and annexing the Crimea in 2014, Russia has:

  • Interfered with elections in the US, France, Germany, and possibly also in Italy.
  • Continued to carry out a clandestine war in Eastern Ukraine.
  • Provided military support in the form of soldiers, air power, equipment, and training to Assad’s regime in Syria which is again using chemical weapons on civilians.
  • Continued to murder and harass political opponents and journalists in Russia.
  • Continued to repress ethnic and minority groups within Russia.
  • And Putin has even revealed he’s antisemitic too in trying to blame Jews for any meddling in the US election!

Salisbury hasn’t changed anything. Russia is still the same brutal, aggressive, and repressive dictatorship that it was in 2014 when FTA negotiations were suspended over Crimea, the only thing that changed in that time was that Winston Peters had the balance of power following the 2017 election and used that power to wring a concession for a Russian free trade deal in his coalition deal with Labour.

It was a surprise concession considering Peters and NZ First had not campaigned on a Russian free trade deal.

It’s healthy to have some scepticism about what is asserted by the UK (or US or NZ) in situations like the Salisbury poisoning and the escalating diplomatic stoush. But it is also healthy to have some scepticism about Russian denials, and defence of Russia by people lie Smith.

I have seen some claim that Jeremy Corbyn is a sane voice on the current situation, but he seems to agree with evidence pointing to Russia – Jeremy Corbyn: Salisbury attack ‘evidence points towards Russia’

Jeremy Corbyn said the “evidence points towards Russia” being responsible for the Salisbury attack but he did not go as far as his shadow defence secretary.

He said the source of the chemical weapon used “appears to be Russia”.

Earlier, his shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith said the party accepted “Russia was responsible”.

The Labour leader condemned the “appalling” attack but pressed the PM on whether the UK had supplied traces of the nerve agent used in the attack to Russia for analysis before Wednesday’s deadline, as the Kremlin had asked.

And he asked what action the UK was taking with its allies through the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons.

The UK’s response, said the Labour leader, should be underpinned by support for the rule of law and international agreements and respect for human rights.

But in a later Facebook post, Mr Corbyn called for the Russian authorities to “be held to account on the basis of the evidence and our response must be both decisive and proportionate”.

Is that the sane voice that Smith was referring to?

Few have supported Winston Peters or called him a sane voice over the poisoning issue – he has been strongly criticised. But even he joined condemnation of the poisoning – NZ joins condemnation of nerve agent attack

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says the New Zealand Government has grave concerns over the use of a chemical nerve agent in the United Kingdom resulting in critically serious injuries to some of those exposed.

“We share and support the concerns expressed by other nations about such use of chemical weapons. The use of chemical weapons as a tool of war, or for murder or assassination is totally repugnant, and this incident is an affront to global rules and norms. As New Zealand has stated on many occasions, we are deeply disturbed at any use of chemical substances banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention,” he said.

“How this military grade nerve agent was transported from Russia and released abroad is the key issue here, and warrants urgent international investigation,” said Mr Peters.

 

Smith’s ‘sane voices’ seem to disagree with him.