Joining Some Dots on the #Skripal Case: Part 6 – Tying up the Loose Ends

Joining Some Dots on the Skripal Case: Part 6 – Tying up the Loose Ends

Over the last five pieces (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5) I have, slowly but surely, advanced a theory of what happened in the Skripal case. I must confess to having done so with a fair amount of unease. I don’t want to believe that my Government has been stating a case that is false. I don’t want to believe that the public have been lied to. I don’t want to have to think that there has been a lot of effort made to present an explanation that hides the truth.

And yet, given the fact that the Government story contains self-evident fallacies, and cannot be made to add up, I don’t think that there’s much alternative than to be hugely sceptical about their claims. I stated the two main fallacies in Part 1, which are the claims that three people were poisoned by the nerve agent A-234, which is 5-8 times more toxic than VX, and that because A-234 was developed in the Soviet Union, the Russian State is responsible for what happened. The first claim cannot be true, because the three people are alive and well and have suffered no irreparable damage. The second claim is palpably untrue, because A-234 has been synthesised in a number of countries.

Yet this is only the tip of the iceberg of the absurdities and anomalies. I don’t intend to go through all of them, but would simply point anyone who does believe the official story to concentrate on three words: The Door Handle. This was apparently where the poison was poured, so allow me to pose five questions about this claim to those who believe it to be true:

  1. During the “clean-up” operation, there were lots of military chaps wearing HazMat suits, which are designed to protect against exposure to toxic chemicals. How, then, did the assassin apparently manage to pour this same lethal, military grade nerve agent on a door handle, without wearing a HazMat suit?
  2. On the other hand, if he or she was wearing a HazMat suit when performing the operation, wouldn’t someone in Christie Miller Road have noticed and found it – shall we say – a bit odd?
  3. If the poison was administered to the door handle, how exactly did both Sergei and Yulia Skripal manage to touch it (people don’t normally both touch the door handle if they go in the house together), and how did they manage to get exactly the right quantities on their skin so that they collapsed at exactly the same time, some four hours later?
  4. The door handle theory only reared its head some three weeks after the poisoning, at which point the substance was said to have been still present in a “highly pure” form. During this three weeks, many people went in and out of Mr Skripal’s house using the front door. How did they manage to do so without using the door handle, or if they did, how did they manage not to succumb to poisoning?
  5. Part of the Government’s alleged evidence pointing at the high likelihood of Russian involvement in the case, is an FSB instruction manual showing – amongst other things – how to assassinate someone by pouring Novichok on a door handle. Suspending our disbelief on this claim for a moment (and admittedly that is hard), did the Government have the manual when they made their accusations against the Russian Government on 12th and 14th March, and if so, why did the door handle theory not surface for more than a week after this?

Of course, a few moments consideration about the door handle theory will show that – like the rest of the official story – it is simply wrong. And because it is so plainly wrong, that is why we can safely say that the real explanation lies elsewhere.

Nevertheless, I am aware that in advancing another explanation, there are likely to be many holes in it too. Whilst much of what I have said throughout this series has been based on facts and eyewitness statements, the theory I have advanced from those facts and witness statements remains unproven. And so I would ask that where I have got things wrong, you would forgive me, and where things don’t make sense, you would point them out.

Having said that, what I want to do in this final piece it to tie up a few loose ends and – most particularly – attempt to demonstrate how the theory I have advanced explains some of the other anomalies in the case in a far more cogent and rational way than does the official story. So here goes.

The Deafening Silence of Sergei Skripal

One of the least talked about points in the official story, yet one that really is very important, is that if it were a true account, Mr Skripal would almost certainly have no more clue about who poisoned him than the average person in the street. If it were true that an unknown assassin, appointed by the Russian Government, poured military-grade nerve agent onto his front door on 4th March, before fleeing back to the Motherland, Mr Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, would be as much in the dark as to who did it than you or I.

Now, if that were the case, two things would naturally follow. The first is that Mr Skripal would almost certainly be inclined to believe the version of events given to him by the Metropolitan Police. Think about it. He wakes up one morning in a strange hospital bed, and has absolutely no clue why he is there or what happened to him. Then a kindly policeman comes and explains that he was the target of an assassination attempt using a lethal nerve agent, and that the British Government believes that it was ordered by the Russian Government. What is he going to believe? Fairly obvious I would think. At least he would have no reason to disbelieve them.

The second thing that would naturally follow is that, as soon as he was able, he would want to release a statement, either on paper, or in an interview, where he not only pledges his support for the Metropolitan Police and their ongoing investigation, and no doubt hints at involvement of the Russian State, but also – and this is crucial – where he also gives the public some information about what actually happened to him on 4th March: where he went, when he first started to feel ill, and what he last remembers.

Again, think about it. If you were in his shoes, wouldn’t you want to catch the people who did it? And wouldn’t you assume that the more information you could give to the public, perhaps even clearing up some of the anomalies (such as the reason for the agitation in Zizzis), the more chance there would be that someone’s memory might be jogged and vital information given to the police?

Of course you would. And yet so far, Mr Skripal has released no such statement. Why?

It isn’t that he is physically or mentally incapacitated. We know from Yulia Skripal’s brief call to her cousin on April 5th (which almost certainly wasn’t “meant” to happen), that Sergei was by that time fine. In response to Viktoria’s question about her father, she said this:

“Everything is ok. He is resting now, having a nap. Everyone’s health is fine, there are no irreparable things. I will be discharged soon. Everything is ok.”

That was nearly three months ago, and yet the Sergei Skripal who was fine on 5th April, having suffered no irreparable damage from apparently being poisoned by the world’s most deadly nerve agent, and who was discharged on 18th May, still has not spoken.

I put it that the theory I have advanced (see Part 5 in particular), suggests an obvious reason for his silence. Were he in the dark about the identity of those who poisoned him, as the official story implies, his silence would be inexplicable. Don’t you want to catch the perpetrators of this crime upon you and your daughter, Sergei?

Yet, if we assume that actually he knows exactly who poisoned him and why they poisoned him – as would be the case according to the theory I have advanced – then his silence is very easily explained. He cannot be allowed to be interviewed about what happened, because he would blow the whole wretched business clean out of the water. He cannot be allowed to make an open statement, with the press there to ask free questions, because it would come out that he had been meeting someone at the bench in The Maltings, and that this someone whom he met was the person who poisoned him.

In addition, his (highly likely) authorship of the Trump Dossier would be revealed. And if this were to happen, not only would it be seen that the foundations upon which the whole Trump/Russia collusion hoax was based was made of straw, but it would become clear that the interference in the 2016 US Presidential election was never really about Russian interference to get Trump elected; but rather about British interference to stop Trump getting elected.

The deafening silence of Mr Skripal is therefore strong evidence of a number of things:

  • That the Government story, in which he was the unsuspecting victim of a Kremlin plot, is without foundation.
  • That he well knows who his poisoners were and why they poisoned him.
  • That he cannot be allowed to speak freely because if he was, a scandal of monumental proportions would be revealed.

The Deafening Silence of Yulia Skripal

Deafening silence of Yulia? What am I talking about? She has released a number of statements through the Metropolitan Police, and in the statement (not interview) she made to Reuters. So what do I mean?

Many have pointed out a number of remarkable things about her Reuters statement. For one, she herself looked remarkably well. For another, the language of the statement she read was highly suggestive that it was first written in English – not by her – and then translated into Russian (statements like “I do not wish to avail myself of their services” don’t normally trip off the tongue of native English speakers, let alone those who speak it as a second language).

But for me the most remarkable thing about all of these statements are not what they do say, but rather what they don’t say. As with Sergei’s silence, Yulia has nothing whatsoever to say about the day of the poisoning. She notes that she and her father survived an “attempted assassination”. She notes that a nerve agent was used to do it. But she says nothing about her and her father’s movements that day. Nothing about what they did and where they went. Nothing about when they first succumbed to the effects of the poisoning. Nothing to suggest that her father’s agitation in Zizzis may have been caused by poisoning.

In short, she says nothing whatsoever about the poisoning itself. Zero. Diddly squat. Zilch. Nada. Nothing. Why?

As with Sergei’s non-statements, this doesn’t compute. If you happened to wake up in a hospital to be told that you had been the victim of a nerve agent poisoning, you would almost certainly want to tell people as much as possible about your movements up to the point of the poisoning. Wouldn’t you? Of course. Especially if they had not only poisoned you, but your dad too. You’d at least want to sound a bit more interested in actually catching the perpetrators than Yulia, who didn’t so much as mention it, and instead sounded like she just wanted to move on and forget it ever happened.

Once again, this total silence on something so crucial just doesn’t fit at all with the official story. That narrative suggests that Sergei and Yulia were innocent victims of a Kremlin-hired assassin. That narrative suggests they don’t know who that Kremlin-hired assassin was. But it also suggests that they of all people have a huge interest in giving details of what happened to them that day. And yet there is silence.

Does it fit better with the theory I have proposed? You bet it does. If what I have suggested is anywhere close to the truth, just like Sergei, Yulia cannot be allowed the freedom to give a proper interview where any question is allowed. She cannot be given consular access by the Russian Embassy. Why not? Because she knows what her dad was up to; she knows why he was meeting people at a park bench on Sunday 4th March; and she knows that the two of them were poisoned by the people who they were meeting.

Why did she agree to an interview? No doubt she realises what a difficult and vulnerable position she is in. Despite claims to the contrary, she clearly has no contact with her family back in Russia, or indeed any contact with the outside world. She was almost certainly pressured into making a statement, and yet — as Tony Kevin convincingly argues here — it has many signs of being a compromise statement. And so she agreed to making a fairly nebulous statement — one which is almost inconceivable from the point of view of the official narrative, but which fits perfectly with the narrative I have advanced.

The Deafening Silence of Nick Bailey

One final deafening silence that doesn’t exactly do wonders for the official narrative, is the silence of Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey. He has always been a big puzzle in this case, for a number of reasons. It was first said that he was poisoned at The Maltings. However, the problem with this explanation is that there was absolutely no reason for him to have been there. The case was treated by Salisbury District Hospital as a case of Fentanyl poisoning. Why would a member of the Criminal Intelligence Department (CID) be called to a bench to an apparent opioid overdose?

It was then said by none other than Lord Ian Blair that DS Bailey was actually poisoned at Mr Skripal’s house. But again, the same question arises. Why would a member of CID be sent to the home of a person in a what looked like a case of opioid poisoning?

The story then swung backwards and forwards a number of times between a poisoning at the Maltings and a poisoning at Mr Skripal’s house. These anomalies are very important, but even more important is that they could have been put straight by DS Bailey himself. If the official story was correct, not only would it have been super easy to have verified where DS Bailey was poisoned, but he himself could have testified to it. And yet like the Skripals, there has been nothing!

Given the absurd changes to this particular part of the story – and it is perhaps the easiest of all parts to verify – my assumption is that he was poisoned at neither The Maltings or Mr Skripal’s house. Instead, just as I wrote in Part 5 that I believe it likely the Skripals were poisoned by an incapacitating nerve agent in the red bag that was then seen next to the bench, I think it highly likely that DS Bailey was poisoned from the same source.

But where? The red bag was removed from the scene by a police officer and placed in an evidence bag. Why would this have been done? Because the pair on the bench were suspected of overdosing on an opioid, and the bag would naturally be removed by police so that its contents could be examined. And whereas I think it unlikely that someone from CID would be called to the scene of a drug overdose, it seems quite likely that they might receive and handle evidence taken from such a scene. Therefore my guess – and I stress that it is only a guess – is that DS Bailey was the man who received the bag, and whilst looking inside to see its contents, was poisoned by the same incapacitating agent as the Skripals (possibly something like 3-Quinuclidinyl Benzilate (BZ), but definitely not A-234).

Again, if the official story were true, what would prevent DS Bailey from giving a brief statement or interview, confirming exactly what happened to him? But if the red bag theory is close to the mark, then it becomes plainly obvious why this hasn’t yet happened.

Smokes and Mirrors

Which actually brings me on to the penultimate point I want to make in this piece, and indeed in this 6-part series. Everything in the official story, no matter how absurd, seems designed to point our attention away from the most probable source, place and type of poisoning: The red bag, at the bench, and an incapacitating nerve agent. And it does so because if those our attention is focused on them, then a very different story begins to emerge. Which cannot be allowed to happen.

As stated above, claims about A-234 being used just don’t add up. Neither the time delay, nor the symptoms, nor the recovery of the Skripals with no irreparable damage match up to what this deadly, military grade, high purity, lethal nerve agent that is so much more toxic than VX, is meant to do. What the claim does, however, is points our attention away from what is far more likely – an incapacitating agent administered to the Skripals between 3:45 and 4:00pm on 4th March.

As stated above, claims about the door handle just don’t add up. Neither the fact that both Sergei and Yulia were poisoned, not the fact that others went in and out of the house before the door handle theory was put forward and didn’t succumb, nor the fact that the substance on it apparently remained of “high purity” weeks later – none of these things make any sense. What the claim does, however, is directs our thoughts away from what is far more likely – that the substance used to poison the Skripals was administered at the bench, and probably via the red bag.

The apparent motive put forward in the official narrative doesn’t add up either. There is a general agreement among countries that you do not target spies who have been part of a swap. Why? Because if you do, you can kiss goodbye to ever getting any other spies swapped in the future. It’s called shooting yourself in the foot big time! But what this frankly risible explanation for the apparent motive behind the poisoning does, however, is to point our attention away from what Mr Skripal was really up to. And as I set out in Part 4, this was very likely something to do with authoring the Trump Dossier.

Nothing about the official story makes sense. None of it adds up. It is riddled with holes. But I would submit that the only thing that does make sense about it, is that the parts that go to make up the sum are all desperate attempts to divert attention. They are smokes and mirrors, designed to stop us from considering some of the more obvious aspects of the case, and some of the more startling aspects of the case – Mr Skripal’s involvement with MI6; his likely involvement in or authorship of the Trump Dossier; the likelihood that he was due to meet people at the bench in The Maltings; the probability that this is why he was agitated and in a hurry in Zizzis; the likelihood that he knows who poisoned him and why.

And of course the reason that these things are not supposed to be considered is that if – and I acknowledge it is a big if – the alternative explanation I have advanced is true, and if it became generally known, then it would cause just about the biggest political crisis in British political history.

And Finally…

Having said that, I have to say that I don’t believe it at all likely that the British Government knew about any of this before it occurred. I get the impression that the intelligence agencies on both sides of the Atlantic are a law unto themselves, and I think it likely that some of their number wanted to send Mr Skripal a message, one which would look like an opioid overdose, one which he would recover from reasonably quickly, and one which would be forgotten very soon.

However, I don’t think that the poisoning of DS Bailey was meant to happen, but when it did, it set off a series of events that quickly got out of control. I don’t think the identity of Sergei Skripal as a Russian involved in a spy swap was ever meant to make it into the press, but it did and very soon what looked like some kind of opioid poisoning quickly became an international spy saga.

The British Government’s reckless and extraordinarily quick reaction to the case was, apart from being a travesty of the rule of law, one of the big clues that the official narrative was not true. If it were true, they could have took their time, acted calmly, and let the investigation run its course. Instead, what we got was a lawless, irrational and absurd response. It all smacked of a panicked reaction, and whilst it made no sense in terms of the story they sold us, it makes perfect sense if the truth was that they were desperate to prevent news getting out about who Skripal really was, what he had been up to, and how the poisoning might well be connected with that work. And indeed the D-notices they slapped on the reporting of that stuff, and of Mr Skripal’s connections to Christopher Steele and Pablo Miller, are further evidence that it is so.

And so they very quickly decided to turn attention away from the big clues of the case, by invoking the scary sounding “Novichok” and pinning the blame – without any evidence – on the Russian State. To this date, they have given us no evidence to back up their claim, much less a suspect, but have unwittingly given us a bunch of absurdities that can be blown out of the water through the use of simple reason and logic.

They should have remembered this:

“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7)

But I have a feeling they don’t believe it applies to them. I have a feeling that it does.

And so there’s my case. As I say, there are bound to be a good many holes and no doubt many errors and inconsistencies in it. Please do forgive me for those. As for the rest of it — Make of it what you will.

I hope to leave this case for now and write about other stuff. But I will of course return to it if there are any new and interesting developments. Many thanks for your patience whilst I have written these pieces, and for the many thought-provoking comments under each piece

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The Parallel Universe of BBC Panorama @BBCPanorama

The Parallel Universe of BBC Panorama

By Kit | OffGuardian | June 21, 2018

The BBC flag-ship documentary series “Panorama” has long been a stalwart of state-funded television propaganda. They can always be relied upon to tell us what we’re supposed to think. In 2013, just days before the Commons vote on military intervention in Syria, BBC aired “Panorama: Saving Syria’s Children”, a shambolic piece of fiction designed to outrage the public into war.

Robert Stuart has done truly exceptional work in deconstructing the fakery and propaganda on which the BBC sees fit to spend taxpayer’s money.

In just the last year they’ve had two documentaries about North Korea being evil (“North Korea’s Secret Slave Camps” and “North Korea’s Nuclear Trump Card”).

And it’s not just foreign “enemies” that end up in Panorama’s crosshairs either – it’s also domestic ones.

In 2015, just a few days before Jeremy Corbyn’s first Labour leadership victory, the BBC aired “Panorama: Jeremy Corbyn – Labour’s Earthquake”, a documentary which prompted Corbyn’s team to file an official complaint, labelling it a “hatchet job”.

Then in 2016, on the eve of Corbyns second (larger) Labour leadership victory, the BBC aired “Panorama: Labour – Is the Party over?”, a documentary full of doom and gloom, featuring anecdotes about abuse, and various (predictable) Blairite MPs bemoaning the “unelectability” of their leader.

In the 2017 General Election, Jeremy Corbyn’s resurgent Labour defied the polls, the pundits and the BBC to knock-off the Tory majority and come within 2% of winning. Could the BBC’s, and Panorama’s, relentlessly negative slanted coverage be responsible for keeping Corbyn out of No.10? It would be foolish to deny the possibility.

And there, neatly demonstrated in those three paragraphs, you see the value and purpose of state-sponsored propaganda. Panorama is the spirit of the BBC, a pretense of faux objectivity, shrouded in cuddly familiarity, employed exclusively and decisively against anything the establishment sees as a threat.

*

Enter Vladimir Putin

The folks at Panorama LOVE Putin, or at least love to hate him. In the last two years there have been no less than five (five!) episodes devoted to the man, and indeed the myth.

January 2016 brought us “Putin’s Secret Riches”, January 2017 “Trump: The Kremlin Candidate”, March of this year brought us two inside a week, “Putin: The New Tsar” and “Taking On Putin!”. As the titles suggest, none of them were especially objective or open-minded. That’s not in the BBC’s remit.

The most recent Putin-hit piece aired just last week – in the run up to the World Cup – its rather more mundane title simply: “Putin’s Russia with David Dimbleby”. The documentary, for want of a better word, opens on David Dimbleby wandering through a Moscow market looking at sigh Russian nesting dolls, and it doesn’t get less predictable from there on in.

A long time ago, I was taught you construct an argument in three steps – “Statement, Evidence, Conclusion”. Instead Panorama opted to go for the unorthodox “Conclusion, Anecdote, Stock Footage of Nesting Dolls” approach.

The first problem, and perhaps the biggest, is David’s hat… but it never really goes up-hill from there.

The second problem, is the smugness. Forget the factual inaccuracies re: the Russian economy, forget the totally evidence-free assertions, and just focus on the smugness.

The smugness of an English man who went to Charterhouse School, and then on to Oxford, is possibly one of the most toxic things in the world. So much evil has been done by men who are taught their own effortless superiority. Blood has been spilled by such men, oceans of it, evils done beyond imagining, all with a soft chuckle and clear conscience, because they come from a system that tells them their very existence MAKES them RIGHT. They do the “right thing” as a matter of course because of who they are and what they think. They are right, and the vast swamps of Other are wrong, and that’s just the way it is.

These are the people who spread the British Empire over a quarter of the globe, all the time telling themselves that they were doing the savages a favour by giving them civilisation. The same men, the same minds, in suits that change with time and with methods that shift with the ages, have run the country for centuries… and run the BBC since its inception. Men who believe morality is a function of their very existence. A path that rises up to meet their feet.

This is the British version of what the Americans call “exceptionalism”. It’s less brash, and less obvious, but no less poisonous for that.

The worst actions of mankind flow from minds who never question their own moral position, and this documentary can be counted as small, septic, addition to that list.

And so we begin…

I’ve come to see how Putin has managed to hold on to power for so long, and what the Russians see in the Putin that We, in the West, don’t.

Dimbleby’s introduction is immediately partisan and dishonest – referring to “we” in the West as if there is a consensus, when clearly that is not the case, is a variation on the argumentum ad populum, the argument to common knowledge. “Everybody knows that”, or “We all agree on this”. It is deceptive language, being used to paint a false picture.

Likewise, saying Putin “held on” to power for so long, makes it seem like his Presidency was an act of force, when all the evidence is to the contrary. Dimbleby says so himself just a few minutes later.

(SIDEBAR: When Dimbleby says “so long”, he means 18 years. The classic mainstream media trick of ignoring Medvedev’s term as president is employed here. As is every other, long discredited, anti-Putin rhetorical device.)

In a democracy if you failed to deliver on your economic promises, if you surrounded yourself with cronies, and if you used the law to oppress opposition, well you’d be thrown out on your ear… but this is Russia, and they do things differently here.

Dimbleby lays out, in one broad stroke, that Russia is backwards, and silly, and he’s going to come along and point out to us sensible Westerners just how they went wrong.

Leaving aside the hypocrisy (this is, let’s be honest, a pretty accurate summary of what every single British government has done since Margaret Thatcher), it’s also simply insulting. I find it insulting, and I’m British. If I was Russian and heard that? I would vomit blood.

It’s sickening… and we’re only 2 minutes in.

*

David on… the Russian Birthrate

Our first port of call on David’s whistle-stop tour of everything that’s shit about Russia is the birth rate. He tells us that it fell sharply in the years following the collapse of the USSR, and this is true, he doesn’t say WHY this happened. As a matter of policy this programme avoids, at all costs, mentioning what Russia was like in the 1990s.

Anyway, when Putin came to power the birth rate was declining, and what did he do about this? Well, in a masterstroke, decided to encourage people to have babies.

Mrs Cherenkova’s medals

How? Well by increasing state benefits to mothers with more than 2 children, and further increasing them for families with more than 3 children. Families with multiple children are also entitled to free school meals, tax breaks and get discounts on family holidays. Medvedev also introduced a medal in 2008 – “The Order of Glorious Motherhood” – for mothers with 7 or more children, based on the “Mother Heroine” medal from World War 2.

(SIDEBAR: It’s worth noting here that we, in lovely hugs-and-flowers Britain with our nice fluffy democracy, DON’T have free school meals… for anyone. At all. Ever. The government that proposed this bill was not “thrown out on their ear”, but DID have to spend £1.4 BILLION pounds bribing a minority party to vote it through.)

The measures worked, and under Putin/Medvedev the birthrate has increased almost every year since 2000. In 2011 the birthrate moved ahead of the death rate for the first time since 1992, and Russia’s population started growing.

Now, if this is all sounding very sensible and not at all bad to you, then well done for paying attention.

It’s here the film reaches its first hurdle… and goes into it face first. Russia is supposed to be backwards and Putin is supposed to be a brutal corrupt dictator with no concern for the country he runs… but the facts on the ground don’t jive with this at all, at least in the birthrate example. Not only did he try to improve his country, but he did via perfectly reasonable methods, and they worked.

The film makers decide to simply leave an ellipsis on this one, just a long pause that’s obviously designed to make us ruminate on how bad Russia is, but it doesn’t really work. Partly because it doesn’t make any sense, but mostly because – for some reason – David thinks the best way to hammer this point home is show us the Cherenkovas. A very happy family with lots of healthy children. He refers to them as “Putin’s ideal family”, as if the term itself is insulting.

Mrs Cherenkova proudly displays her medals for motherhood in a leather case, explaining she wears them on public holidays. The family sing as they sit down for dinner, talk about the Church and how life has improved under Putin compared to the 1990s. (David, staying true to his brief, doesn’t ask how bad things were in the 1990s. In 58 minutes it’s not mentioned once.)

*

David on… the Russian Orthodox Church

The Cherenkovas praying as they sit down to dinner provides a neat segue for David to discuss something really terrible – the growing influence of the Russian Orthodox Church.

You see, the ROC was suppressed under Communism, which was bad, and now it’s not… which is apparently, also bad. I don’t fully understand the point David is trying to make, but that’s OK since I’m pretty sure he doesn’t either.

We are presented with a Bishop, who tells us that it’s now easier for the Church to interface with the state than it was during the 1990s. We don’t know what he means by that, because he’s cut off and David never asks.

The implication, backed by stock footage of Putin lighting candles in a church and David’s narration about “conservative values”, is that Russia is becoming a kind of quasi-theocracy. It’s never stated out-loud, because the position is so ridiculous as to be indefensible, but it is quite clearly the implication.

*

David on… Russian Opinion Polls

Curious to see “how widely [the Cherenkovas’] views are shared”, David goes in search of a broad opinion, but meets an apparent problem:

It’s all very well to say “I’ve come to Russia to find out what the Russians really think”, but it’s not actually that easy in a country where the press, radio and television are all strictly controlled by an authoritarian government.

1) He hasn’t gone there to find out what Russians think. He knows what Russians “really think”. He’s there to tell US why THEY are wrong. He’s there, at our expense, to make sure we hate who we’re told to hate.

2) The press, radio and television are not all “strictly controlled”, that’s a lie, and he knows it’s a lie because he proves it himself less than 10 minutes later.

But that’s beside the point. How does David get around the problem of finding out what Russian’s “really think” under such an authoritarian regime? Well, he goes to the one of the biggest public opinion polling companies in Russia, the Levada Centre.

The irony of rambling on about Russia’s repressive controlling government as you take a gentle stroll down to the partly-American funded NGO, just minutes from Red Square, is apparently lost on David.

Imagine, if you can, a Russian-funded “polling centre” operating within walking distance of Westminster or Pennsylvania Avenue. That not only calls the government-run polls inaccurate, but claims that the CIA forces people to vote and that the President is corrupt.

It would never be allowed to happen, but in “authoritarian” Russia, with its “strictly controlled” media, this is the current reality.

In the Levada Centre (Russia’s only “independent” polling centre), David finds out that around 80% of Russian’s support Putin as President. Which everyone in the world already knew.

The fact the “independent” Levada’s centre polls almost perfectly align with the apparently unreliable government polls doesn’t cause anyone to question their assertions about corruption or dishonesty. It’s one of the many inconvenient truths the Panorama team feel the need to brush over as quickly as possible.

When the head of the Levada Centre claims a President with an 80% approval rating had to “force” people to vote, David doesn’t ask why, or state that it doesn’t make any sense. No, he just makes concerned faces at the camera.

They discuss the “annexation” of Crimea as Russia “taking back” what is theirs, with no reference to the polls that show huge Crimean support for the move, going all the way back to 1992, including those done by both the American and German governments.

*

David on… Propaganda

From Crimea it’s a steady flow to “propaganda” – theirs, not ours – Dimbleby narrates in solemn tones:

For most Russians, state-run television remains the main source of television news.”

… blithely passing over that this statement is being made on a state-run television station, that is the main source of television news for most people in Britain.

He goes from Russian domestic television to RT, saying they are “accused of spreading conspiracy theories”, he doesn’t say who accuses them, or ask his audience to consider the possible reason behind such accusations. He doesn’t even throw the weight of conviction behind it enough to make a declarative statement. No, just sends out the little accusation, evidence free and with no reply or counter, and hopes the implication does its job.

He interviews a British anchor for RT, who says that they aren’t told what to say, and he’s “answerable to no one but his own conscience”. To which David replies, “And that’s clear is it?” The anchor explains the structure of RT, but David isn’t listening. He’s too busy making a documentary demonising a designated “enemy” for a state-funded broadcaster.

He doesn’t pose the same questions about his own conscience.

It’s always worth remembering that the BBC, formerly the British Broadcasting Corporation, is not “independent”, even though they’ve spent decades pretending otherwise. We’re encouraged to think of the BBC as a friendly presence, our shared “Auntie Beeb”, cosy and reassuring and honest. It’s none of those things, it’s a state backed broadcaster with a history of launching pro-government, pro-war propaganda, for which it never faces censure or punishment. It’s a much a less “friendly auntie”, more a threatening “big brother”.

With truly Orwellian posters intimidating us into paying for it.

Imagine this poster was in cyrillic and about RT.

That Dimbleby can stand under the banner of one of the biggest state-funded media organizations in the world, and pontificate about “media control” from an “authoritarian government” demands levels of cognitive dissonance few would think possible. It’s marvelously without irony.

*

Next David seeks out a human rights lawyer to discuss Russia’s legal system. David tells us that Russian judges convict in 99% of cases. This is apparently shockingly high. It does sound high, but deliberately left without context to make it seem worse than it is.

Firstly, the 99% refers only to Judge cases. Jury trials are relatively new to Russian law – in fact Putin, in one of his desperate power grabs, introduced them nationwide in 2003 – and they have a conviction rate of roughly 80%, right in line with the UK’s own courts.

A high conviction rate is not unheard of, especially in systems that run “special procedure court hearings”, a slightly complex system of what amounts to plea bargaining.

Japan runs a similar system and has a conviction rate of nearly 100%, as does Israel. The US federal courts had a conviction rate of 93% in 2012. Will we be seeing documentaries about that? No.

I’m not a lawyer, I’m in no position to launch a full defense of the Russian legal system – for all I know it is corrupt and/or unfair. But there’s no evidence in this film that shows it to be the case, outside of some anecdotal evidence from one lawyer.

Then they move on to Putin’s “online crackdown”.

Apparently Russia is starting to try to censor the internet. How? We don’t know, they don’t tell us. They cite no laws and name no Acts. It is just anecdote after anecdote. There’s no body to any part of it. We’re told Putin wants more control of the internet, as if this is shockingly tyrannical and when Dimbleby says there is…

… a crackdown on what the security services call “online extremism”.

He thinks his scare quotes show some desperately dystopian alternative universe, but doesn’t seem to know, or at least acknowledge, that WE call it that too, or that our very own dear Theresa May called for a “crackdown in online extremism” in a speech just last year.

Or that she put having an entirely government controlled internet in her manifesto last year.

Or that she passed an act in 2016 which Edward Snowden described as:

The most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy.

Is Panorama asking questions about that? Of course not.

Does the BBC call our government authoritarian? Not once.

Instead they offer just a talking-head, making a scary statement that “thousands” of innocent Russians could be in prison, with again no evidence to back it up at all.

When you actually dig into the numbers they tell a completely different story.

The New York Post, not known for its pro-Russia bias, reported that 233 Russians were convicted of “hate speech” in 2015, “most of them for online activity.”

Meanwhile, in happy bunny funland Britain, 2015 saw 857 people arrested for “offensive” tweets or Facebook posts… in London alone.

It sounds like we’re more “authoritarian” than the Russians on the internet front at least. A fact which takes maybe 30 seconds of research to find.

*

David on… Russia’s Controlled Media

Next David goes to Echo of Moscow Radio to talk to one of the completely non-existent members of the independent media in Russia. She claims that the entire country is actually run by the KGB. As per usual, she produces no evidence for this statement, she just says it. But that’s good enough for David who asks her to “explain how the KGB dominates society”, underlining that the KGB and MI6 are not at all similar:

Explain to our UK viewers, who might think of the KGB as just like our MI5 or MI6… how the KGB dominates society?”

Got that everyone? There’s their spies, and our spies, and they are completely different. This attitude was ridiculous enough to be used as satire in Blackadder, but now is being seriously repeated by one the BBC’s most respected personalities.

Her “explanation” involves simply repeating the same sentiment she already expressed, only in slightly different words, and David is too polite to press for more, or too lazy to be bothered, or too smug to notice. It’s really getting hard to say at this point.

(SIDEBAR: Of course one of the most prominent ways that MI6 and the KGB differ is that the KGB doesn’t exist anymore, whereas MI6 are very much still going.)

It’s at this point the documentary seems to realise the rather confusing contradiction of its own existence. They are there to talk about how autocratic and terrible Russia is, and yet they seem to talk to human rights lawyers, anti-government television hosts and the head of anti-Putin radio stations. If Putin has all dissidents and protestors locked up and/or murdered… how do these people exist?

They get around this in one, short sentence:

By allowing a few independent outlets, a few dissident voices, Putin can claim freedom of expression.

Brilliant logic. Unfailing reason. Yes there’s SOME freedom of speech, but only so Putin can say there’s freedom of speech, it’s not REAL freedom of expression.

It just looks like it.

Much like that old expression:

“If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s not really a duck because Putin doesn’t allow ducks. He’s just letting that duck exist so he can pretend he’s got a duck.”

*

The Russian Orthodox Church seems to be a real bugbear of David’s, because fresh from announcing that “there IS free-speech in Russia, it just doesn’t count”, David goes back to talk to a member of the Church… and asks him if he approves of the lack of free speech in Russia. David narrates:

When it comes to political repression, the one place not to look for support is the Orthodox Church.”

This sentence implies we’re about to hear a Church spokesman defending political repression… which is not the case. Instead we see the same bemused Bishop as before, being asked:

You know there’s a lot of criticism of Putin’s encroachment on human rights: People in prison for speaking out against the state, internet communications closed down, the state spying on people’s communications, do you approve of all that?”

Note he’s asking “do you approve of…”, not “is this the case…”. Leading questions predicated upon unproven assumptions have no place in honest discourse… but if you took them out the documentary there would only be 3 or 4 minutes of stock footage of nesting dolls and onion domes.

The bishop, who seems slightly perturbed by the rudeness of the question, evidently wasn’t provided with a script because he doesn’t launch into a fascistic diatribe about values, or verbal attacks on traitors and dissidents… he simply says:

This is your point of view, and we do not always agree. With all due respect.

You can see his Russian politeness straining, but not breaking. And that’s it.

So much for Russia the conservative theocracy.

*

David on… Russians’ Right to Protest

The documentary just gets less coherent and more confusing from here on in. The facts they present never align with the spin they try to put on them. They point out eminently reasonable realities of Russian life, with a weight of sinister implication that defies all reason. (In the trade, we refer to this maneuver as “The Harding”).

The perfect example is the story of a women’s rights campaigner Alena Popova, protesting about the allegations of sexual harassment made against the Russian MP Leonid Slutsky.

We see her standing outside the State Duma with cardboard cut-out of Slutsky. I don’t read Russian, but I can’t imagine the slogans on the cut-out are especially complimentary. She is briefly detained by the police who ask her who she is and what she’s doing… she explains and is released. Then she returns to the Duma, and does her protest unmolested.

All this seems perfectly fine, despite David’s chuntering narration.

This is just one example of brutal oppression of dissent, ever present in Putin’s Russia.

Alena is standing literally right outside the door of the parliament building, with a cut-out of Slutsky covered in protest slogans. She requires no permit to do this under Russian law, which states that solo protests are allowed anywhere at any time without a permit. You do need permission to hold group protests.

By way of comparison, let’s imagine Alena were British, not Russian: If she attempted the same exact protest in the UK… she would not be allowed to. At all. Ever.

Firstly, you would never get to stand within inches of the doors of Parliament without getting halted by armed police. Secondly, you’re not allowed to protest in Parliament Square – even alone – without getting prior permission. This law was passed by Blair’s government in 2006, in order to shift anti-war protester Brian Haw.

At one point a young man approaches David and Alena and asks what’s going on, David’s voice-over claims the young man works for state security, and intones the words with foreboding. We have no way of knowing if this is true, if it even matters. I’m fairly sure a Russian camera crew standing outside the Houses of Parliament would attract the attention of special branch. He asks them two questions and then leaves.

Later, there’s a counter-protest. Four people appear with signs in support of Slutsky. David claims they’re there to cause trouble for Alena, and even implies they are working for the state. A claim which is rather shot-down when the counter-protest group – who support the government – are escorted away by the police because they don’t have permission for their group protest.

The pro-government protesters are gone, the anti-government protester remains. David doesn’t see this as, in any way, challenging his position on government oppression of dissent. He asks Alena:

If they control protest, if they’re against protest, why do they let it happen at all?”

A fantastic question, the only really cogent thing he’s said for the last half an hour. She replies:

Because we have a constitution.”

(SIDEBAR: Britain, of course, has no written constitution at all.)

*

David on… Russian Paranoia

The next episode in this bizarre saga opens with the director of the Levada Centre claiming the Kremlin is “paranoid” about a revolution, referencing the 2012 protests (the aborted “Snow Revolution”). To which David adds some rather incongruous narration:

Putin prepares to go to almost any lengths to prevent a popular uprising against him.”

He never says what these “lengths” are. In fact, we have no idea what the Russian government has done to prevent a Revolution. If anything. But breaking away from the specific facts, which the documentary forces us to do, maybe we should ask a simple question.

Why would the Russian government be paranoid about revolution?

Maybe we should look at other countries that have had “revolutions” recently for an answer to this question.

Ukraine is a disaster. Libya is possibly the only country in the world worse off than Ukraine and the only reason Syria isn’t just as bad those two is that Russia stepped in to help. David talks about revolutions as if they are organic, almost accidental, occurrences. But we all know that’s not true, we’ve all seen “Colour Revolutions” be fomented by the Western powers to overthrow governments that the USA has deemed to not have “American interests” at heart.

“Revolutions”, in recent years, are Imperial acts of aggression carried out by proxy armies with the aim of removing an “enemy” of the West. And they have left nothing in their wake but blood and destruction. The Kremlin has every right to be concerned about possible Western attempts at a coup against their government. Such a move could destroy everything they have built.

Do you think a Western-backed coup government will keep up free school meals and medals for motherhood? Do they have a constitutional right to protest in Libya right now? How about the birthrate vs death rate in Syria, is that going up?

Shouldn’t all governments fear revolution and hope for stability?

How would David feel about a revolution in Britain? Would it be welcomed? Would Theresa May like seeing violent unrest in the streets of London? Or being replaced by a Russian-backed, unelected leader?

Despite the chaos that has been left in the wake of “revolutions” the world over in recent years, the documentary gives no credence to Russian fears. Russia is never “afraid”, and always “paranoid”.

David talks to an Sergei Markov, a “political consultant who has worked with Putin”. We have no way of knowing if this is true, and this being Panorama taking it in faith is an unearned act of trust, but let’s assume that they’re telling the truth.

Markov highlights that Russia has good reason to fear Western aggression. Pointing out, reasonably enough, that no Russian soldier has ever set foot on British soil in the name of conquest, whereas Britain has invaded Russia every several times since the 19th Century:

Now, you are preparing to invade Russian territory again, to establish your control of Russian political, social and economic constitution, for us it is absolutely clear.”

We are encouraged to see Markov as a crazy-eyed lunatic, and David’s response is to laugh in his face:

You don’t seriously think an invasion of Russia is planned by the West? I mean, you’ll have me laughing in a moment.”

A rather patronising rebuttal, that would hold more water if Russia weren’t practically encircled by NATO airbases. Or if the US hadn’t unilaterally withdrawn from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002. Or if they hadn’t positioned their missile defense shield in Eastern Europe under clearly false pretences, granting them theoretical first-strike capability.

David doesn’t mention these facts.

Just as he doesn’t go into any recent history of Western military interventions. How America has, in the last 20 years alone, carried out coups in Venezuela, Ukraine and Honduras. Or how, when covert means did not work, they simply declared all out war in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

Any impartial viewing of world history – especially recent history – would explain every country in the world having a fear of falling into NATO’s crosshairs.

Rather than acknowledging this, the documentary remains resolutely in its own little world. Insisting, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that Russia has nothing to fear from the West.

*

David on… Russia’s “Orchestrated” Democracy

Fresh from telling us that Putin’s Russia is a “paranoid place”, where the leader with 80% approval is constantly worried about revolution and is prepared to go any lengths to stop it – even so far as having laws regulating protests that are almost identical to our own – David goes to talk to all the young people about their views on Putin.

They all like him, apparently:

One of the most fascinating aspects of today’s Russia, is that the under 25s, who might be expected to rebel, are Putin’s strongest supporters.

He’s talking to a group called Set (Russian for Network), a collection of “young artists, writers and designers” who consider Putin a role-model. David asks them a series of questions.

What do you like about Putin?

One of the young men says that before Putin it was “uncomfortable”, even “shameful”, to be associated with Russia. David doesn’t ask a follow-up question, putting paid to his earlier claims about wanting to know what Russians “really think” and staying true to the programme’s aim of never, ever mentioning the 1990s. Instead he skips back to leading questions based on false assumptions:

You feel happy with one person controlling the whole country?

We don’t know what they say to that, because it cuts off before anyone answers.

Do you agree that he’s quite ruthless when it comes to opposition?

They say they don’t agree. In fact they say quite the opposite. Which cues in a snide narration:

This generation of Russians are internet savvy, globally connected, but they prefer Putin’s authoritarian rule to democracy.

None of the people on camera ever express this opinion. Which makes this one of the most egregious lies in the whole 58 minutes. To appreciate what a statement that is, you really need to watch the film.

None of these young people “prefer authoritarianism to democracy”, they make it quite clear – in their opinion, they live in a democracy. Is there an effort to understand their position? None whatsoever. Instead we get treated to the head of the Levada Centre (again), this time dismissing all the young people who like Putin as being either stupid or brainwashed:

They are very different to Western youth, their minds were formed at the same time Putin’s regime was established, and for them the rhetoric of a great power is a very important part of their collective identity.

This is, as far as we know, another unsupported statement. Not one of the half-dozen young people David talked to said anything about Russia being a great power. Not one thing. They talked about Putin personally being relatable and they talked about improving conditions from the Yeltsin era.

When confronted with Dimbleby asking yet another offensively phrased question…

People in Britain look at Russia and say “this is a powerful autocrat who stops opposition, prevents anyone, if necessary puts them in jail to stop them opposing him” is that not how you see it?

… one young man, far from claiming to “prefer authoritarian rule” or praising the “rhetoric of a great power”, launches into a defense of Russian democracy. Pointing out the sheer number of different political parties (48), and that they had 8 different Presidential candidates running against Putin.

David isn’t listening. He’s nailed his colours to the mast on this one, Russia isn’t a democracy. It doesn’t matter how popular the leader is. It doesn’t matter how many elections they have, how many candidates are on the ballots, or how much public support they have. Russia is NOT a democracy, because David says so.

The film even references Navalny as “Putin’s biggest political opponent”, without mentioning that his party has ZERO seats in the Duma, and that he polls at less than 2% public support. Dimbleby doesn’t know these numbers, because his “researchers” either didn’t look them up, or pretended not to know them. Instead David solemnly declares:

Putin had him convicted of fraud.

Not “he was found guilty”, no, “Putin HAD him convicted”. Is there evidence produced that shows Navalny was framed? Nope. Is there evidence produced that shows any corruption on behalf of the judiciary? None. Is there any mention of Navalny being a right-wing ultra-nationalist who referred to Caucasians as “cockroaches”? Not even a little.

“Russia isn’t a democracy”, and “Putin’s main political opponent” is an unpopular convicted criminal with a history of racism, who was forbidden by the constitution from running in a Presidential election in which he would have come ninth.

Cut to:- Skyline of Moscow. Night. Synthy music plays, and the David lets fly with this beauty:

As many autocrats have shown, just holding an election doesn’t make a democracy.”

Boom. Just as a free press doesn’t mean Russia has freedom of expression, elections don’t mean they are a democracy. The documentary is slowly becoming less an attack on Putin and Russia, than an attack on the English language, and indeed logic itself.

David doesn’t tell us what DOES make a democracy, but it certainly isn’t elections. Following this logic, of course, you could have a democracy without elections. And if that sounds absurd, then remember that Margaret Thatcher praised Pinochet for bringing “democratic order” to Chile.

Elections that return the “wrong” result? They aren’t democratic. Rounding up dissidents in soccer stadiums and gunning them down? That is democratic.

“Democracy” means whatever the establishment wants it to mean.

Putin uses carefully orchestrated elections to legitimise his rule.”

Who “orchestrates” the elections? How do they do it? How does David know this? We’re not told. We’re now 40 minutes in, and we’ve yet to have any single accusation or anecdote backed up with anything even approaching evidence. We’re not even provided basic logical reason.

Perhaps more pressing is: Why would a President with 80% popularity NEED to “orchestrate” elections?

They never explain.

*

David on… Russia’s “small” economy

David’s next port-of-call on his tour of Bizzarro World is the Russian economy. Having been told that the Russian economy is “struggling” we get some more stock footage – this time of factories and oil wells – with David narrating:

Russia is one of the largest countries on Earth, with a population of 144 million, but its economy is much smaller – not even two-thirds the size of Britain, and even smaller than Italy.”

There’s a lot to unpack here.

First, it’s absolutely hilarious that dear little David can’t even bring himself to acknowledge the simple fact that Russia is not “one of the largest countries on Earth”, it is the largest. It’s nearly double the size of China. It’s European portion is the largest country in Europe, its Asian portion is the largest country in Asia and if you cut it evenly in half the two new countries would still be 4th and 5th largest countries in the world.

Russia is very big.

Nobody would ever dispute that, so why not just say it? It goes to show the pettiness of the mindset behind this programme. They simply cannot give Russia any credit, even so far as acknowledging its size.

Second, the language is again very deceptive. When he says “much smaller than Britain” and “EVEN smaller than Italy”, he’s painting a picture of small economy. He doesn’t mention that the UK has the 4th largest economy in the world, and Italy the 7th. Russia is 10th, just behind Canada. He also doesn’t mention that those figures don’t include the economy of Crimea, which the World Bank refuses to count as Russian.

Nobody would seriously claim that the 10th biggest economy in the world is “small”.

David sits down with Russia’s former deputy-Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich who says, when asked about the size of Russia’s economy:

If you look at other European economies, they have a long tradition of private entrepreneurship, we started this tradition only in the 1990s and need to accumulate experience.”

It’s a fair point, considering they’ve only been capitalist for 28 years or so, the 10th biggest economy in the world isn’t bad at all. David is unmoved. We don’t see his answer to that point, I would suggest because he couldn’t make one.

Instead he changes the subject, in voice-over, to corruption. Calling it a “tradition” in Russia.

He talks to Vladimir Pozner, a member of the allegedly “strictly controlled” Russian media, who apparently feels free to say corruption is endemic, giving yet more anecdotal evidence. This time about entirely hypothetical traffic policeman being bribed. A (strictly controlled?) anti-corruption campaigner points at a flat and says a politician lives there and shouldn’t be able to afford it. And David mentions an (unnamed) survey which ranks Russia 135th in the world in terms of corruption.

Thus is it established that Russia has a terrible corruption problem.

At this point the documentary devolves into a series of complete lies. Not mistakes, not exaggerations, lies. Lies so simple and so easy to refute with only a few google searches, that we’ll just go ahead and work through them one at a time:

Corruption is widespread, according to one survey it’s one of the worst countries in the world – it ranks 135 out of 180.”

He’s almost certainly referring to the famous “corruption perception index”, which is NOT a measure of corruption, but a measure of how corrupt some (unnamed) people THINK something MIGHT BE. It is a nonsense stat, discussed in more detail here.

“Russia has one of the most unequal economies in the world…. 20 million people live in poverty.”

This is technically true, there are 20 million people living under the poverty line in Russia, or 13.8% of the population. Before the sanctions it was less than 12%.

In the US, there are 45 million people living under the poverty line, or 13.8% of the population.

In the UK, there are 14 million people living under the poverty line, or 20.6% of the population.

Of course, where these numbers differ is that Russia’s number is coming down from 35%, and ours is going up. The makers of this programme know this, because the numbers were published on the BBC’s own website.

Putin’s failure to diversify the economy means that half the Russian budget comes from oil and gas, so when the price of oil fell after the annexation of Crimea, Russia was plunged into crisis.”

The price of oil did not “fall”, it was deliberately sabotaged by the gulf monarchies flooding the market. This was done to try to hurt the Russian economy, we can tell David knows this because he references the “annexation of Crimea” as the cause, he just doesn’t explain the details.

Putin’s aggressive foreign policy, along with the West’s sanctions, made the situation worse.”

Putin’s foreign policy – “aggressive” or otherwise – has no bearing on the Russian economy. This is all about the sanctions. Sanctions imposed by the West are not any reflection on the economic competence of the Russian government, especially when they are put in place over entirely false accusations, such as the Skripal poisoning or “hacking” the US Presidential election.

It is one of the oldest tricks in the US Imperial playbook, create a pretext for action against a country which they see as an “enemy”. Use this pretext to sanction a country with the aim of crippling their economy, and then use the fact the economy is struggling to criticise the government of the target country. The US has been doing it to Cuba and North Korea for decades, to Venezuela for years and Russia since 2014.

The deliberate destruction of their economy by powers beyond their control has no bearing on the competence or corruption of the Russian government.

In fact, by any standards, the Russian government under both Putin and Medvedev has been exceptionally competent.

… this list could go on and on.

Russian GDP under Yeltsin, Putin and Medvedev

Russia’s economy – under both Putin and Medvedev – has gone largely in the right direction.Of course, part of that is that there was only one direction to go.

All of this comes back to the 1990s. When Russia, as a country, was possibly within only months of ceasing to exist, collapsing into Balkanisation and chaos.

Average salary in Russia since 1998

Putin’s government prevented that, and turned things around for ordinary Russians in a quasi-miraculous fashion. That is why 80% of Russians support the man.

It’s the most basic rule of governance, but its one we in the West are encouraged to ignore – the first priority of government is to make the country better. Do that, and the people will support you.

To discuss the Russian economy, or the living standards of Russian people, or popularity of Putin, without acknowledging these facts, is just incredibly dishonest. Sickeningly so.

*

Conclusion

This is a bad documentary. It’s not simply ethically bankrupt, it’s also badly made. It’s badly paced, badly edited and incoherent. It’s so dedicated to its agenda that it sacrifices all else.

There is a relentless war being waged here, not just at the BBC and not just against Russia, but throughout the Western world… and against reality itself.

Consider the implications of this situation: One of the largest media organizations in the world spent license fee-payers money to send a man half-way around the globe, to convince their captive audience of tax-payers that elections don’t equal democracy, that independent media doesn’t equal free speech and that a $15bn trade surplus means your economy is struggling.

It recycles lies that have become terribly dull to refute, so must be simply exhausting to repeat. It routinely accidentally steps on its own argument, realises it has done so, and then performs logical gymnastics to try to prove it knows what it’s talking about. It makes no sense, and you can tell that they know it.

The list of contradictions and unanswered questions goes on and on, creating a world that cannot exist under the laws of reason. We’re told that Putin is popular, but that people are forced to vote for him. We’re told by Russian independent media organizations, critical of the government, that Russia has no independent media organizations critical of the government, and we’re told by a protester standing right outside the Russian parliament, that protests are practically illegal.

All of this irrationality combines to put together a patchwork-Picasso portrait of “Vladimir Putin”, the corrupt communist idealist, KGB hardliner and devout christian ideologue, who forces all the devoted members of his cult of personality to vote for him in elections he rigs anyway. A man who stole all the money he also spent on rebuilding Russia’s military, schools and hospitals, is best-buddies with all the oligarchs he sent to jail for tax evasion, and who – despite the size of the country – has “only” got the 10th biggest economy in the world.

It’s a documentary made by people at war with themselves, unable to understand that their delusions are absurd and incomprehensible to those of us struggling to live a reality-based life.

There’s desperation in this film, a hysterical repetition of proven lies and shrill fake news, screamed out by people who feel they’re losing control of the narrative.

They don’t know what they think except that Russia is bad and Putin is worse, they don’t know why they think it except that they’ve got to because they were told to, and they’re aghast. Unable to understand why no one’s listening when they’re making so much sense!

This documentary, like so much of the MSM’s recent output, is a wail of outrage at a world that refuses to listen to their nonsense. As well-reasoned as a toddler’s tantrum, as well sourced as “Trevor from the pub” and as well researched as toilet stall graffiti. A limping, heaving, slime-ridden pile of self-defeating, self-contradictory garbage that has no place in people’s hearts, minds or homes.

And I watched it five times to write this.

I need a shower.

How Britain Facilitates the Shameful israeli Naval Blockade on Gaza

Source

Written by Rory Wood

The UK supplies the hardware, the expertise and the moral support to Israel that allow them to continue controlling the open prison that is Gaza

GazaUK

“Thanks in no small part to British cheerleading, the Israeli Navy are more emboldened and equipped than they ever have been, and the raids and patrols have increased in frequency.”


40% of World Health Organisation essential medicines are inaccessible in Gaza. The only painkiller available at al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City is ibuprofen: the go-to headache remedy in the West is rationed between men, women and children who bleed and clutch their bullet wounds on corridor floors in the 24-48 hour wait to receive treatment. Once surgery begins more corners have to be cut; blood supplies are exhausted due to a lack of lab facilities to transfer it. Overworked doctors improvise and sometimes work miracles, but more often than not Palestinians suffer easily preventable deaths.

8,000 Gazans were shot over the last three months during the Great Return March, pushing a normally inadequate medical system into crisis. This crisis demands expedited cargoloads of vital supplies: something which should be easy for a a strip of land on the Mediterranean, where 30% of the world’s merchant ships are in transit at any time of year. However, Israel has enforced a brutal embargo on Gaza since 2007, and the UK Navy lends a hand to this siege that the UN Human Rights Council have declared a ‘flagrant contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law’.

Israel break the Oslo I accord by shooting at Palestinian fishermen who travel beyond 6 km from the shore, rather than the agreed 37km; they violate UN law by sinking aid flotillas and slaughtering humanitarian workers. If the UK Foreign Office’s stated objective to ‘stand up for human rights by working with international bodies’ was sincere we would not be assisting the IDF in their transgressions.

Minister of State for the Armed Forces Mark Lancaster admitted in a FOIA request that the five British vessels have taken part in Israeli tactical exercises and defence engagement activities since 2016.

The Bombing of Hodeidah, Yemen’s Biggest Port: UK Government Complicit in a Humanitarian Catastrophe

Global Research, June 13, 2018
Campaign Against Arms Trade

By CAAT – Campaign Against Arms Trade,

The ongoing war in Yemen has reached an even more deadly stage, as the Saudi-led coalition begins strikes against Hodeidah. 

The town includes the biggest port in Yemen, and has provided a vital lifeline for many across the country, with over 70% of Yemen’s imports, food and aid shipments flowing through it.

Humanitarian organisations have warned that strikes would be devastating. Save the Children said that vital aid will be cut-off and a further 340,000 people could be displaced.

Since the bombing of Yemen began in March 2015, the UK has licensed £4.6 billion worth of arms to the Saudi regime, including:

  • £2.7 billion worth of ML10 licences (Aircraft, helicopters, drones)
  • £1.9 billion worth of ML4 licences (Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures)

It has also licensed substantial amounts of weaponry to the United Arab Emirates and the other regimes taking part in the ongoing bombing campaign.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said:

 “The crisis in Yemen is one of the worst in the world, and almost every major aid agency and international organisation has warned that these strikes will make the situation even more dire.

There is no doubt that UK arms will play a central role in the bombardment. This terrible war could not have been fought without the complicity of politicians like Theresa May and her colleagues, who have armed and supported the Saudi-led coalition every step of the way.”

President Assad “UK publicly supported White Helmets that are a branch of Al Qaeda, US and UK existence in Syria is invasion”

Source

Damascus, SANA – President Bashar al-Assad said that the UK publicly supported the White Helmets that are a branch of Al Qaeda and Jabhat al-Nusra in different areas of Syria, stressing that Syria considers the White Helmets to be a PR stunt by the UK.

Damascus, SANA – President Bashar al-Assad said that the UK publicly supported the White Helmets that are a branch of Al Qaeda and Jabhat al-Nusra in different areas of Syria, stressing that Syria considers the White Helmets to be a PR stunt by the UK.

In an interview given to Britain’s Mail on Sunday published on Sunday morning, President al-Assad asserted that the alleged chemical attack in Douma was staged by the UK, France, and the US.

He also said that there had been communications from different intelligence agencies in Europe, but it was stopped recently because they’re not serious.

His Excellency stressed that the presence of the US and the UK in Syria is illegal and constitutes invasion as it breaches the sovereignty of Syria.

President Assad affirmed that Syria is the main party who’s been fighting ISIS, and that every inch of Syrian territory will be liberated.

He asserted that the only decision about what’s going on in Syria and what’s going to happen is a Syrian decision, and no one should have any doubt about this.

Following is the full text of the interview:

Question 1: Mr. President, as of the 31st of March 2018, the total sum of funding that the British government supplied to the White Helmets, also known as the Syrian Civil Defense, is GBP 38.4 million. At the same time, Russia accuses Britain of helping stage the attack that took place in Douma via this organization, the White Helmets. Do you, as Syria’s President, believe that’s true?

President Assad: Definitely, without a doubt. Britain, France, and the US are following and adopting the same policy. That said, to be completely frank and stark, Britain and France are political satellites to the US. The UK publicly supported the White Helmets that are a branch of Al Qaeda, al-Nusra, in different areas of Syria. They (Britain) spent a lot of money, and we consider the White Helmets to be a PR stunt by the UK. So yes, definitely, it was staged by these three countries together, and the UK is involved.

Question 2: British Prime Minister Theresa May said she had no doubt the Syrian regime was behind the April 7 chemical attacks and told her critics that Britain’s participation had been right and legal and permitted under international law to alleviate humanitarian suffering. Do states not have a responsibility to protect against war crimes? How is the UK participation in strikes against Syria not justified under international law?

President Assad: So, according to her statements, when Britain and the US attacked Iraq illegally in 2003, killed millions, caused mass destruction, let alone the number of widows and amputees – according to May’s logic, any government has the right to attack the UK or the US if it thought the act was justified, legal and allowed under international law to alleviate human suffering. This is first.

Second, they told a lie; they didn’t provide their own public opinion – the British public – any evidence. After we liberated al-Ghouta, where the alleged attack happened, many foreign journalists, some of them against the Syrian government, asked local people about the chemical attack, and they said “we didn’t see any chemical attack, it didn’t happen.” It was a lie, especially after we liberated that area, our information confirmed that that attack did not take place. The British government should first prove with evidence that the attack happened, and then they should prove who is responsible – of course this did not happen.

There was no attack; this is where the lie begins. Again, it wasn’t about the attack; the crux of the issue is that they need to undermine the Syrian government, as they needed to change and topple the Syrian government at the beginning of the events of the war in Syria. They keep failing, they keep telling lies, and they continue to play a war of attrition against our government.

Question 3: Unconfirmed reports have circulated that the Syrian government captured Western regular forces, as well as British fighters. Can you confirm this or shed light on these reports?

President Assad: There are fighters from all over the world helping the Jihadists. I wouldn’t say we have British fighters who are alive. Most of those fighters, they are dead, they came here to die and to go to paradise, that’s their ideology.

Journalist: But you confirm that they’re dead, and they were from these countries?

President Assad: Yes.

Question 4: Have there been any attempts, even through mediators or third parties, by the British government or its intelligence branches to establish communications with Syria for intelligence for whatever reason?

President Assad: No. We did have communications from different intelligence agencies in Europe, but it was stopped recently because they’re not serious. They want to exchange information despite their governments being politically against ours, so we said when you have a political umbrella for this kind of cooperation, or let’s say when you change your political position, we’re ready. Now, there’s no cooperation with any European intelligence agencies including the British.

Question 5: But there’s been no attempts by Britain to try and open lines of communication, as far as you know, even through mediators?

President Assad: Even if there is a kind of an attempt, we don’t discuss it; it’s trivial, whether there is or not.

Question 6: What are your views on May and Trump’s handling of issues in the Middle East, and in Syria specifically, and what’s the difference between their interventions in the region and those of Putin?

President Assad: Big difference: The Russians were invited by the Syrian government, their existence in Syria is a legitimate existence, the same for the Iranians. While for the United States, the UK, it is illegal, it is an invasion, they are breaching the sovereignty of Syria – a sovereign country. So, their existence is not legal at all, it is an illegitimate existence.

Journalist: But in your view, how have they handled Syria, both May and Trump?

President Assad: It’s not about May and Trump; it’s about the Western politicians in general, the Western regimes in general. They don’t accept anyone who has a different point of view, any country, any government, any personality. That’s the case with Syria; Syria is very independent in its political positions, we work for our national interests, we’re not a puppet state. They don’t accept this reality. So, the whole approach toward Syria in the West is “we have to change this government, we have to demonize this president, because they don’t suit our policies anymore.” This is the situation, everything else is like flavors; they tell lies, they talk about chemical weapons, they talk about the bad president killing the good people, freedom, peaceful demonstration; all these lies are flavors for the main goal, which is regime change.

So, my answer to your question about how I see it is: this is colonial policy, that’s how we see it, and this is not new. They have never changed this policy since the old way of colonialism that existed in the beginning of the 20th century and the 19th century and before, but today it’s covered by, let’s say, a new mask, or different masks.

Question 7: Your main global adversaries today are Trump, Netanyahu, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, a lineup of unusual, unpopular characters. Are you suddenly looking good by comparison?

President Assad: I cannot compare myself to anyone, because I wouldn’t be objective judging myself, so you better ask this question to others. But when you want to have an objective answer, you have to look for the real facts, not the propaganda that’s been circulating in the Western media now for seven years. So, at the end, for me I don’t care how I look in comparison to those; for me it’s important how I look in the eyes of the Syrian people, that’s my focus.

Question 8: In 2013, you told me “Syria lies at the fault line geographically, politically, socially, and ideologically,” and warned that playing with this fault line will have serious repercussions across the Middle East and Europe.

President Assad: Yes, we’re at the fault line, the last five years have proven that I was right, because look at the repercussions all over the world, look at the terrorism spreading all over the world because of the chaos that is supported by the West in Syria. Look at the different attacks in Europe, in UK, in France, other countries. Look at the refugee crisis in Europe. That’s because of the fault line that I talked about five years ago.

Question 9: Five years on since you told me this, or since you said that, during which ISIS was born, you seem to see yourself as the main bulwark against it, why is that?

President Assad: For ISIS, we are the main party who’s been fighting ISIS with support by the Russians and Iranians during the past years. No other party is doing the same, even partially. If you want to talk about the West and the Western military alliance led by the Americans, actually it has been supporting ISIS, because they’ve been attacking the Syrian Army whenever we attack or we’ve been attacked by ISIS; the last incident happened only days ago, when ISIS attacked the Syrian Army and of course we defeated them, and in response the Americans attacked our troops in the eastern part of Syria.

Question 10: Was the world wrong in isolating you for the last seven years?

President Assad: The concept of isolating a country in general is wrong. In the world, in the modern politics, even in the olden days’ politics, you need communications. When you isolate a country, you isolate yourself from the reality in that country, so you’re becoming politically blind. So, the concept is wrong.

Question 11: Mr. President, some regard you as an international pariah, a dictator, with blood on your hands, give me an argument for why you are not, when in the past seven years, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been killed, arrested, imprisoned, and even tortured?

President Assad: So, the story that you’re talking about, or let’s say the Western narrative, that this is a bad president; he’s killing his own people, and the whole world is against him because he’s an international pariah, but he’s been in his position for seven years while he’s fighting everyone in this world. Can you convince your readers about this story? It doesn’t even hold together, I mean the different factors of this narrative, it’s not logical, it’s not realistic. So, this president is in his position because he has the support of his own people, so how could he have this support while he’s killing these same people? So, the story is not correct. We are fighting the terrorists, and those terrorists are supported by the British government, the French government, the Americans and their puppets whether in Europe or in our region. We are fighting them, and we have public support in Syria to fight those terrorists. That’s why we are advancing. We cannot make these advances just because we have Russian and Iranian support; they cannot substitute the popular support, and the proof of what I’m talking about: Shah of Iran, the Western puppet, he couldn’t withstand the backlash of the Iranian people, and he collapsed, the whole system collapsed in a few weeks, and he had to flee his country.

Question 12: But despite having support of many Syrians, the fact remains that there are thousands, tens of thousands of people that were killed, and have been imprisoned.

President Assad: Of course, you’re talking about a war; there is no good war, there is no peaceful war. That’s why war is bad. So, when you talk about war, the natural and the self-evident result is death and blood everywhere, but the question is: who started this war, and who supported this war? The West. The West supported the war from the very beginning, and it supported the terrorists who started exploding everywhere and killing everywhere and everyone and beheading. The West supported Al Qaeda. So, it’s not enough to say there is killing. Of course, there is killing; that’s self-evident, but who started? The West is responsible first of all.

Question 13: The West is responsible, but some also say that Mr. Assad or President Assad should bear responsibility as well.

President Assad: Any Syrian could bear responsibility because of what’s happening in Syria. That’s another issue, this is a Syrian issue, we don’t discuss it with the West. It’s not the role of the West to tell us who’s responsible in Syria, the president or the government or the army or the terrorists, this is a Syrian issue; we decide who. The West is in no position to tell us, at the end, it’s not its role, but it interfered in a sovereign country and is responsible of the killing in our country, regardless of its narrative and its lies.

Question 14: Russia appears to be making a lot of decisions about Syria, whether about foreign troops withdrawing to deals being struck with Israel over southern Syria, to which weapons you may or may not have. Does Russia now make your decisions?

President Assad: Russia is fighting for the international law, and part of this international law is the sovereignty of different countries, of the sovereign countries, Syria is one of them. Their politics, their behaviors, their values are not about interfere or dictate; they don’t. We’ve had good relations with Russia for more than six decades now, nearly seven decades. They never, during our relation, try to dictate, even if there are differences; because there is a war and because there’s high dynamism now in the region, it’s natural to have differences between the different parties, whether within our government or other governments; Russia-Syria, Syria-Iran, Iran-Russia, and within these governments, that’s very natural, but at the end the only decision about what’s going on in Syria and what’s going to happen, it’s a Syrian decision. No one should have any doubt about this, regardless of the statements that you may hear, because I know on which base the question is.

Journalist: Based on various statements.

President Assad: Exactly.

Question 15: So, why has Russia not given you the S300 they promised for years, at a time when Israel is striking Syria practically every week, and why is Russia coordinating these strikes’ targets behind the scenes with your enemies?

President Assad: Russia never coordinated with anyone against Syria, either politically or militarily, and that’s contradiction; how could they help the Syrian Army advancing and at the same time work with our enemies in order to destroy our army?

Journalist: But they usually know in advance where the attacks are going to happen…

President Assad: No, no, that’s not true, that’s not true, definitely. We know the details. Regarding the S300, why they announced it and then they stopped talking about it, you better ask the Russian officials. It’s a political statement, they have their own tactics. But whether they send it or they’re going to send it or not, this is a military issue; we don’t talk about it.

Question 16: Senior Pentagon officials have warned they will militarily retaliate should you mess with their alliance. Are you ever going to get rid of the US military presence in Syria, are you prepared to fight them directly?

President Assad: Since the beginning of the war, the Americans and their allies haven’t stopped threatening Syria, they haven’t stopped supporting the terrorists, and they haven’t stopped attacking us directly on numerous occasions. But in spite of this we have been advancing against the terrorists, and we have said that we’re going to liberate every inch of Syria regardless of any statement or any attack. This is our land and this is our duty; it’s not a political opinion, it’s a national duty. We’re going to advance in that direction regardless of the military or political position of our adversaries.

Question 17: You’ve said that you will take back every inch of Syrian territory, how long you anticipate this will take you?

President Assad: This is not only about the Syrian Army and the terrorists, or about the events within the border of our country, otherwise I would have given you, let’s say, maybe a precise timeframe. But I have always said that in less than a year we can solve this conflict, it’s not very complicated. What has made it complicated is the external interference. The more we advance, the more support the terrorists have from the West. Look, for example, we were about to achieve reconciliation in the southern part of Syria only two weeks ago, but the West interfered and asked the terrorists not to follow this path in order to prolong the Syrian conflict. So, we think the more advances we make politically and militarily, the more the West, especially US, UK, and France, will try to prolong it and make the solution farther from the Syrians. But in spite of this, we are closing the gap between the two.

Question 18: Mr. President, in three years’ time, you will come to the end of your presidency term now, and it’s been a long seven years and the next two years, do you think you will be running again as president, or you will call it a day and decide that it’s time for you to take a break?

President Assad: It’s still early to talk about it; you’re talking about three years from now. Three years on, no one knows how the situation is going to be in our country. If I’m going to run for the presidency, there are two factors: First of all, will – personal will to take responsibility, and second – which is the most important, the will of the Syrian people. Do they accept that person? Is the mood about me as president still the same, or will the Syrian people change their position? So, in three years, we will have to look at these two factors and then decide whether it’s appropriate or not.

Question 19: How do you think history will remember you?

President Assad: It depends on which history: The Western history? It’s going to be skewed; it’s going to tell lies and lies and lies; the same lies that we have heard not only about our present but also about the past. Our history on the other hand, which I care about, I hope it will remember me as somebody who fought the terrorists to save his country, and that was my duty as president.

Question 20: With the World Cup around the corner, do you have a favorite team?

President Assad: In these circumstances, yes, my favorite team is the Syrian Army, to fight the terrorists.

Journalist: Any favorite British teams, football teams?

President Assad: No, I don’t follow.

Question 21: It’s been seven years of war, what do you do to let off steam, any hobbies?

President Assad: Sports is not a hobby, it becomes a part of your health, and a part of your daily routine, because good health is important to staying active. So, we cannot look at it as entertainment; there’s no time or mood for entertainment. You’re living with the war, the killing, with terrorism. So, this is the only hobby that has become a habit, a daily habit depending on the time and circumstances.

Question 22: Your wife is British, and you’ve lived in London for many years, is there anything in particular that you miss from your days there?

President Assad: I lived in London, I learned as a doctor. It’s impossible for you to live in a city and you don’t feel there is a special link with that city or with the people that you work with on a daily basis. So, you miss maybe this relation, but you live sometimes in contradiction; that the same city that you like is the same country that’s been attacking your country, which is not good.

Journalist: Thank you very much Mr. President.

President Assad: Thank you.

Hypocrite!: Anger as Brexit supremo Nigel Lawson applies for French residency

‘Hypocrite!’: Anger as Brexit supremo applies for French residency

Many of the long-time British immigrants in France expressed outrage at Lord Lawson’s application for a residency permit

Nigel Lawson applies for French residency British politician and former Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson participates in a debate on the EU at the Institute of Directors convention in London, Britain, October 6, 2015. 2015. REUTERS/Toby Melville

leading campaigner for Britain’s exit from the European Union has been accused of hypocrisy after applying for permanent residency in France.Former Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson told newspaper The Connexion that he is applying for a permanent residency card, known as a “carte de sejour,” which it is hoped will avoid complications after Brexit.

Brexit will end the right of EU citizens to live in Britain and vice-versa. Both Britain and the bloc say they want expats to retain their current rights, but questions remain over the status of 3 million EU nationals in the U.K. and 1 million Britons in other EU countries.

Lord Lawson, 86, who chaired Britain’s Vote Leave campaign, said he was “not worried” about his status as a Briton in France. He live in who lives in an 18th century country house in Gers, south-west France,.

Pro-EU group Best for Britain said that Lawson “looks like a hypocrite.”

Spokesman Paul Butters said the thought of Lord Lawson applying for a French residency card “takes the biscuit”.

“It seemed to Lawson that no cost was not worth paying to leave. But with this news, it seems the cost will be paid by others while the former chancellor suns himself in his luxury home in France.”

There are more than 150,000 Britons living in France whose future has been complicated by the bitterly fought 2016 UK referendum that voted to leave the European Union by a narrow 52 percent majority.

Many of the long-time British immigrants in France expressed outrage at Lord Lawson’s application for a residency permit and said they hoped it would be turned down, reported The Local.

Russell Hall, who lives in the Dordogne told The Local: “What annoys so many of us is his extraordinarily blasé and casual attitude. Perhaps his wealth and privilege protect him from the chaos and disruption that will affect so many more humble Brits who have chosen to live in France, either full time or part of each year.

“It beggars belief that as many of those seeking a carte de séjour in France struggle to satisfy the many criteria and to assemble the substantial documentation in support of their application, Lord Lawson airily dismisses their concerns, saying he is “not particularly worried. It comes under the category of tiresome rather than serious.”

American arrogance: “Forget the NHS, spend on defence” – US ambassador tells UK

Forget the NHS, spend on defense – US ambassador tells UK

 

Forget the NHS, spend on defense – US ambassador tells UK
RT | May 15, 2018

Woody Johnson, the US ambassador to the UK, has said that Britain should spend more on military defense at the expense of the NHS, insisting there needs to be ‘trade-offs’ to ensure security and to remain a strong US ally.

Johnson seemed to indicate to journalists assembled in London that, if increasing spending on defense was to the detriment of national treasures such as the NHS, then that was a price worth paying. He said: “Healthcare is always going to be an issue, education is always going to be an issue, transportation and infrastructure are always going to be issues, etc. But how important is it to defend yourself?”

The current owner of American Football team, the New York Jets, Johnson has been serving as Donald Trump’s US ambassador to the UK since January this year. Parroting a Trumpian trope, Johnson warned that his boss doesn’t want to bankroll fellow NATO countries such as Britain to safeguard their security – claiming they needed to pay their way on the world stage.

The US ambassador was talking in relation to Britain’s ambition to buy 138 of the F-35 Lightning II next generation warplanes, as reported in The Times. Some 15 jets have reportedly been bought so far, with military officials committing to an additional 33 by 2025.

It may not come as a surprise to some in the UK that an official from the US, a country which views good healthcare not as a right, but something that should be determined by financial capability, is advising its ‘close ally’ to ditch increased spending on the NHS to ward off supposed threats to national security from ‘enemies’ such as Russia.

Johnson added: “You’re going to have to make trade-offs and go through the emotional and practical and philosophical arguments in terms of what you want to do, what you want to be, how important is defense? How you want to be perceived, by the US, but also by Russia and others?”

The ambassador’s intervention comes on the back of suggestions that there is a black hole in the region of £20 billion ($27 billion) in the UK Ministry of Defence’s budget over the next decade, reports Forces Network.

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