- Date published:
8:46 pm, September 8th, 2018 - 29 comments
Categories: australian politics, Deep stuff, journalism, kremlinology, Propaganda, Russia, uk politics, winston peters - Tags:
In Politik’s 7 September issue we are told that Western diplomats in Wellington are surprised that Winston Peters has not accused Russia of the Skripal poisoning or joined some other countries in taking reprisals. Editor Richard Harman quotes a source to tell us that the British in particular were “pissed” at Peters’ response. Well dearie me! I’m with Winston, a wise old owl in a precarious global environment.
Another senior journalist, Brian Rudman, commented rather differently on Britain’s attempts to “blackguard” Russia in New Zealand media when this issue first broke in March this year.
Yet 30 years on, Opposition politicians and parts of the media were now trying to put us back into colonial diapers, criticising the Government for not blindly going wherever Britain decides to go in its “punishing” of Russia for allegedly poisoning Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter on UK soil.
Behind the scenes, senior diplomats from the British High Commission in Wellington even lobbied selected journalists, pushing their case for Russian guilt and the need for a united stand against such evil-doing.
It very much looks as though Richard Harman would have been one of the selected journalists. I know Richard well, like and respect him, but I think he is barking up the wrong tree on this issue.
The language in the press release from Winston Peters is careful, as is he in matters diplomatic. He refers to the police investigation which has resulted in the naming of two suspects, although the police call for further information from the public indicates that the case against them is by no means open and shut.
It is notable that the attribution to the Russian state or its organs does not come from the police, as their press release indicates. It comes entirely from Prime Minister Theresa May, made under parliamentary privilege. In the absence of concrete information, speculation as to what actually happened and why is rampant, as this article in the Independent attests.
I’m living in London at the moment, and would have to say that it is charitable in the extreme to describe the state of UK government politics at the moment as merely chaotic. Theresa May’s net favourability stands at -37. Nobody believes her on anything. The Conservative-led government is now as divided as the Liberal-led government in Australia, with the Tories in open revolt over Brexit. As for their diplomacy post Bojo, the best example would be Jeremy Hunt’s expedition to China to offer a new glorious age of trade, which would only have served to remind the Chinese of the Opium Wars. He also got himself publicly confused about his wife’s ethnic origin!
We may well be entering a new multi-polar world where it will be important for New Zealand to play its traditional role of honest broker, independent, nimble and fundamentally principled. The last place we should be looking for global leadership from is Britain in its current state, as former diplomat Mark Malloch-Brown makes clear in this article. Self-delusion is rampant here.
Winston Peters is and deserves to be treated as a substantial politician and diplomat. One doesn’t have to agree with everything he says, but he is no fool. On this issue, for our country’s sake, I am very glad he is not knee-jerk following the “western” group.
“It is notable that the attribution to the Russian state or its organs does not come from the police, as their press release indicates. It comes entirely from Prime Minister Theresa May, made under parliamentary privilege.”
“The news comes days after Scotland Yard and the Crown Prosecution Service named two Russian nationals as suspects in the attempted murder of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.”
That’s what I said – the police suspect the two Russian men. Attribution to the Russian state comes from Theresa May and was made in Parliament.
I’m not sure the inference is unwarranted – either the background of the men, or the circumstances of their access to CBW (on which May will have received some kind of briefing), would be sufficient to infer state involvement.
And indeed May has stated:
“that not only did the two men work for the GRU, the operation was “almost certainly” approved at a “senior level of the Russian state”, meaning Vladimir Putin.”
Though it is possible she made this leap independently, it is much more likely that this was the substance of her briefing about them.
Again as Mike said in the post, she made that comment under privilege.
Now, I think she probably said it there and only there because if it was an official government statement, the British Government would be accusing the Russian Government of committing an act of war.
Rather than everybody just knowing the Russians did it, but not being required to make a proportionate response. But even that much would be a carefully considered action.
It’s a bit like the “blockade” vs “quarantine” pin danced on during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
There is a line of reasoning that makes a degree of sense, unlike that of the denialists, which is that (as Veutoviper had it) Yulia was the target. The Skripal family is closely associated with the GRU (her mum apparently) and there is evidently an inheritance to fight over. Under these circumstances it is not impossible that GRU guys went off the reservation in loyalty to their direct employers rather that the state. But the state remains responsible as they are its agents, just as NZ remains responsible for Operation Burnham – until the culprits are tried and punished appropriately.
Thing is, if you’re going rogue then you don’t leave a huge finger pointing at you. A car crash or a stabbing would sort the inheritence, not taking a supply of your own nerve agent.
Look at it from Putin’s point of view if he didn’t order/ok it: “the british say we did it. Like fuck we did. They used novichok? WTF? How many people have that? Pretty much us and the Iranians? WTF was Skripal doing with the Iranians? Nothing? Who are these guys on the aeroflot plane? GRU??? Those pricks are pissing above their pay grade. Who do they answer to? Someone’s gonna get shot”
Yeah – I think his agents often get away with what they do – and as long as they do they probably have fairly free rein. The resources required to track down something like the Skripal assailants are astonishing, and a lot of countries aren’t focused on it. There are anomalous numbers of Russian defectors or disaffected emigres who have died in England recently.
Having screwed up I’m sure run and hide is the order of the day – and the line from Mission Impossible: “if any of you are caught or killed the secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions”.
Thing is, if Skripal was the target of an ordered action, then the effect is achieved whether or not he actually dies that time.
The objective in that case was to go killing defectors/traitors with two main audiences: potential defectors/traitors who might reconsider looking over their shoulders for the rest of their lives, and the Russian presidential election voters who like a bit of strong leadership and international dick-measuring. The deaths (and attempted murders) of Russians in GB got good airtime on RT.
So what if they missed one? Operationally, they got say 7 out of 8. On English soil. Not a bad job – and they still have plenty of work for toughs, even the ones who can’t travel into INTERPOL-cooperating territory.
Putin: “Okay, you two, I understand you were thoroughly briefed a couple of days ago, although according to the doctrine of plausible deniability I have no idea what about. Can you confirm that the briefing was by someone unknown to you who was careful not to identify themselves as connected to our government? Good. Your dachas are being prefabricated as we speak, just mention if you want them on the Black Sea shore, or on our new subtropical Arctic Sea shore to whichever random person engages you in conversation after you leave the building. Someone will contact you later today and provide you with one each of those 24-hour memory-lapse pills, so you’ll forget ever being here. You are true patriots!”
Winston is a traitor to Western civilisation
You must be dying to expand on that. I can’t wait.
Don’t encourage him; he might pop a vein in his head.
I’ve said what I have to say
Winston may remember how supportive the poms were when the frogmen blew up that Greenpeace boat Anty.
That was just one time
Oh well, that’s ok then..
Very supportive when they went into the Common Market to. All our war dead, we did our bit.
IMO Winston Peters’ stance is quite simple. He is a lawyer. He believes in the principle of innocent until proven guilty – not by the press, not by keyboard warriors – but by a court of law in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – ie:
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 11, Presumption of Innocence –
“Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.”.
He himself has been judged time and time again by the press and by keyboard warriors but the above is fundamental to him – despite his liking of playing word games, etc with the press etc.
End of story – hence his stance is to step back and leave the braying to the likes of May.
From my perspective his stance seems to come from a strange desire to befriend Russia. See for instance the prioritisation of a free trade deal with Russia in the coalition agreement. I see no sense in this.
Much as I believe that the Skripal poisoning was almost certainly a conscious act of the Russian state, the British diplomatic efforts seem to me to be more about global alignment rather than hoping for any justice.
So for consistency’s sake, our government should be a scathing about the Russians as it is about drone strikes or the Chinese occupation of its “autonomous zones”.
I’d agree. However those are my opinions rather than something that we should act upon. Getting entangled in this great power stupidity is just idiotic. There simply aren’t any leaders amongst the 19th century thinking “great powers” worth a tin of shit.
We have the US making absolutely idiotic destabilising and highly illegal wars like the one that George W Bush created in Iraq for domestic political reasons. The same ones that limited what the Obama administration could do. The obvious subsequent morass followed. Now we have this narcissistic dimwit in the White House with what appears to be a severe mental break with reality. God knows what he is capable of doing..
Then there are the scavenging arseholes of the Russian Federation circling around like vultures with foreign adventures like their invasions and annexations under the cover of the kinds of deniable ‘plausibility’ that only a indoctrinated braindead ideologue could believe. Not to mention their close support of the genocidal and chemical weapon using regime in Syria. With their recent track record of simple and obvious lying in the pursuit of plausible deniability, denials from the Russian Federation now just read to me like confirmations of state sponsored guilt. I’d add that there appears to be absolutely no point in getting involved in any trade deals with these dickheads – they appear to be incapable of making agreements honestly.
So far the Chinese have managed to keep most of their arsehole behaviours inside their own borders. However some of the active corruption with their various ‘buy the resources’ programs are clearly designed to destabilize various countries political processes and to make them into compliant client states. What happens in Malaysia after the ultra corrupt UMNO got turfed and some of the more obvious unsustainable projects got canned will be interesting.
Personally, presumably like Mike, I’m more concerned that some fools in Britain and here seem to think that we should follow the lead of the ‘motherland’ and at their word.
Really? What bloody century are these cretins (both local and in the UK) living in?
I’m nearly 60 years old and a 5th generation kiwi. And there haven’t been any living migrants from the UK in my family since well before I was born. I’ve never felt any desire to follow Britain because (to be frank) they have a history of being great power arseholes who have no real interest in this end of the world except when it is convenient for themselves.
What has become clear over my lifetime is that to preserve and grow the intensely non-patriotic way kiwis want to run their lives and their country is that we need to depend on ourselves and multi-lateral internationalism. Getting involved with any of these behemoth states is just an exercise in stupidity. This is a bit tricky in my opinion because it is the kind of mindless stupidity that the National party and many of their supporters seem to specialise in (see Antoine at comment 2).
So support dragging these GRU operatives into court, and if they hide behind the skirts of mother Russia, then the UK and other nations should just release the evidence into the international community.
But as a nation, we’ll make up our own mind about how far we want to go. We don’t need morons with 19th century ideas in the UK or here interfering in our politics.
Our diplomatic positioning this and other comparable issues is always nuanced.
That reflects our trade positions.
We signed up a trade deal with China, so our statements about anything there are nuanced.
We hope for one with the EU, so our statements are nuanced.
We hope for one with Russia (or at least Winston does), so our statements are nuanced.
We have a big one with Australia, so our statements are nuanced.
We now have one across CPTPP countries, so our statements about all of them are nuanced.
That nuance is written in its name: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Not the Ministry of Bold.
Seems to be an awful lot of nuance about.
We don’t do statesmanlike or strong positions, because we are small, weak, insignificant, and dependent on everybody for everything. That’s the way it’s going to stay.
…well, we have fuck all trade with Nauru, so we go all-in there.
You have summed it up well Ad.
Winston does seem keen to stay on the good side of his Russian friends.
You’re either with us, or against us…
Still too many keen on believing the manufactured stories of a group of lying warmongers…
Voters and the spells cast on feeble minds enable their continuity…
The UK government had to come up with something – anything. I was reading somewhere (one of the broadsheets) that as far as the UK government is concerned, this naming of two guys draws a line under the Skripal stuff.
Way I see it, two guys went to Stonehenge.
And for six(?) months, rooms full of short straw winners had the thankless task of moving forward through video footage (usually, the idea is to backtrack) until they could point to someone (anyone!) coming off a Russian flight and heading up to the vicinity of an iconic tourist attraction.
What version of reality says that “senior diplomats from the British High Commission in Wellington even lobbied selected journalists” will do you any good at all. The thing about journo’s is they have no power and in NZ if they are not part of MSM they tend to be heard by tiny echo chambers. If the senior diplomats want us to believe there is a thing called evidence. We are so used to the forces of the law fudging evidence that we are unlikely to believe the UK police as there is nothing that ties the two guys with the crime
Stacey Kirk, Stuff, wrote an’interesting’ piece which highlighted the lack of highlighting by the NZ MSM of the latest Russian involvement in the latest smoke and mirror episode. It looked like someone had a quiet word… and some smoke and mirrors. Suspect.
Given the state of UK politics anything T May says needs to be treated very circumspectly, how much support has she from her own party, let alone her MPs?
The Russians are a convenient diversion.
It is highly unlikely that Putin does not know who did what with novochok. He would know who produces it outside of Russia, he would know who stores it outside of Russia.
Whichever state(s) are involved Russia may not be directly implicated, complicit very probably. Russia has warm water ports, Ukrainian, Crimean, Syrian and NATO agendas.
Direct involvement with Skripal attempt was very likely from one or more players from ex soviet republics, middle east, eastern european states.
It was a clumsy and clue laden trail that was left, probably deliberately.
Winston Peters is being diplomatic. That is what he is paid for.