Staunton, April 6 – “The chief pieces of evidence” against Russia in the Skripal poisoning case “are Kremlin’s militant rhetoric and both the inadequate and hysterical reaction of the Russian authorities and the ‘bad reputation’” Russia has acquired over the past several years, Vladimir Pastukhov says.
London, the Britain-based Russian historian notes, “preferred to begin its political attack on Moscow without waiting for the results of a judicial investigation” because the UK and its Western allies have every reason to suspect that Moscow was behind this action and thus decided to act quickly (bbc.com/russian/blog-pastoukhov-43653417).
“Beginning in2014 and perhaps even earlier, the Kremlin’s policy toward the West has consisted of promoting the idea that we are prepared for anything … Russia is not afraid of fighting. Russia is ready to fight. Russia will fight. And in the final analysis, Russia is already fighting,” Pastukhov continues.
With each Russian action, Moscow has raised the stakes ever higher. This campaign of intimidation ahs worked. “It is not that people in the West are convinced that the Russians tried to kill Skripal but that they now sincerely believe that these guys are quite capable of killing,” the historian says.
The Kremlin and its allies constantly shout that “’we will bury you’” but at the same time “they demand the presentation of evidence before anyone accuses them of that. [But] if you advertise your ability to kill, then you must be prepared to be accused of murder without anyone waiting for the presentation of evidence.”
It may be, Pastukhov says, that people “in Russia are accustomed not to pay attention to the rhetoric of the authorities because they know that the latter lie … but the rest of the world does not yet have such an extensive experience with that phenomenon. [And as a result,] it believes such heavy Russian words and judges accordingly.”
Had the Kremlin reacted with expressions of concern to the Skripal case, the scandal would have been much restricted in size. But the reaction of Moscow has ben such that it “has become almost the main piece of evidence against Russia: It has been viewed as an [implicit] recognition.”
Pastukhov says that this all reminds him of an old joke about a wealthy buyer of a Bentley who purchased the car and drove away only to be approached moments later by the dealer who said the new car didn’t have an engine. In that case, the buyer asked, how come the car has been moving? To which the dealer said “on its reputation.”
For several years now, Russia has been living on its reputation, “unfortunately a negative one. The behavior of Moscow in the past does not leave any doubt that it can and wants to commit political murders. In essence, Pastukhov says, Russia fails the well-known “’duck test’” – if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, then it is a duck.
“At first glance,” the historian continues, “the behavior of Russia in a situation which amounts to a crisis for it looks completely irrational. It seems as if the Kremlin is doing everything to undermine its own position and increase suspicions toward itself. But this is only at first glance.”
In fact, what the Kremlin has been doing follows a certain “precise and cold calculation.” Its hysterical reaction has bought it time to come up with numerous alternative explanations for who was responsible for the Skripal poisoning, especially if it is able to find out just what the British investigators know.
Such knowledge, Pastukhov continues, “is vitally necessary so that at a necessary instant, [Moscow] will be able to retreat in a sensible way by putting out its own truth-like ‘alternative’ version of events.” These versions will simply provide the FSB and thus the Kremlin with its “own KGB(r)exit” from this crisis at least in their own eyes and those of the credulous.
“At a certain moment,” he suggests, “the Kremlin will change its anger to sweetness and light” and offer its own explanation for what occurred, a version of reality that will be “just as convincing as its versions on the downing of the Malaysian airliner over the Donbass of its version of the death of Magnitsky.”