A Note on Former MP Patrick Mercer and Russia

With the announcement of two suspects in the Salisbury Novichok incident, I am reminded of commentary article about the subject from March in the Yorkshire Post, by the disgraced (1) former MP Patrick Mercer:

Russia was condemned almost immediately, though, condemned by a fragile government and a Prime Minister who was under pressure from a shrieking media to talk tough and damn the niceties.

…But what has Mr Putin to gain from such behaviour?… Mr Skripal… was exchanged – he didn’t run – and has lived in silence ever since. Why would Mr Putin bring international condemnation on himself just before a vital election?

…my Russian friends have 
other theories… whilst an attack on the traitor Segei might be acceptable, Yulia is off limits. Some may see her as unfortunate collateral damage, but Mr Putin’s electoral chances would suffer the same if accusations stuck.

…They also point out that the former, main Soviet Novichok facility was in Uzbekistan which is now under the insecure control of that country and that the formula for these weapons is publicly available. It could be made in advanced laboratories such as those in the US, UK Israel or… Ukraine. Ah, Ukraine – aren’t they in the middle of a dirty, bitter war with Russia at the moment and wouldn’t Mr Putin’s embarrassment at the polls be a great advantage to them?

This analysis is weak, and it is troubling to read coming from the pen of a former Chairman of the House of Commons Counter-Terrorism Sub-Committee. Of course there is nothing wrong in itself with raising alternative theories about the poisoning, but this defence of Russia fails due to a number of glaring difficulties:

1. The notion that Putin’s re-election was dependent on “electoral chances” is naive to the extreme.

2. Skripal may be “living in silence” in so far as he had not made any public statements, but he may have been in a position to provide further assistance to British intelligence agencies, and killing him would have the obvious gain of deterring other potential double-agents.

3. Even if it is true that ordinary Russians would have sympathised with Yulia (which is speculative) (2), if the threat to life and injury she suffered was unexpected “collateral damage” then it obviously would not have been a factor that would have been taken into consideration in advance of the decision to act.

4. Russia may well have been confident that the allegation would not in fact “stick” and that they would get away with it. This is usually the case when someone decides in cold blood to commit a crime.

5. For Ukraine, undertaking such a “false flag” terrorist action would be a massive gamble, disproportionate to the vague prize of “embarrassing” Putin.

These days, Mercer writes on military history, and in February 2017 he took part in a delegation of British academics to Crimea, with a view to “attracting foreign and Russian tourists” to archaeological sites relating to the Crimean War, in words attributed to Mercer by RIA-Novosti. The delegation was denounced by the Ukrainian Embassy in London as “an illegal visit… to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea occupied by the Russian Federation”, and another Ukrainian website, Human Rights in Ukraine, added that

Mercer is effectively recognizing the Ukrainian peninsula invaded by Russia and illegally annexed in 2014 as ‘Russian’, and promising to try to get others to also ignore international sanctions by doing the same.

Neither source appears to have been aware of Mercer’s former high-profile political career, and British media appears to have overlooked the oddness of a former Shadow Minister for Homeland Security getting mixed up in such a controversy.

Notes

1. Mercer resigned following a BBC Panorama sting in 2013, in which he agreed to lobby in Parliament on behalf of Fiji’s sugar industry in return for money and – as a bonus scoop – he expressed the view that an Israeli soldier he had once met looked like “a bloody Jew”.

I have sometimes speculated about why he was targeted for this sting, and three possibilities come to mind: (a) contemptuous comments he had made about the Prime Minister, David Cameron; (b) he was a buffoonish liability due to a constant stream of sensationalising and false claims about terror threats that he would feed to tabloid newspapers, based on discreditable associates who were feeding him false information; (c) anger within the security services at his attempt to smear an ex-lover as mentally ill, given that the woman involved was at the time an assistant to the Shadow Security Minister, Baroness [Pauline] Neville-Jones.

(Incidentally, the “discreditable associates” included a British man who sometimes trolled online as “James Rosposol”, later amended to “James Osposol”. “Rosposol” is the first element in the email addresses of Russian embassies)

2. Mercer may be projecting here, due to his own fondness for Slavic females – at one time he was recorded after a few drinks discoursing on the subject of Ukrainian women: “Ooooh ahhh. They are extraordinary. They ARE extraordinary”.

11 Responses

  1. Mercer’s analysis is speculative as are many theories in this mysterious affair.
    But I do think that it is strange that the attack took place when Yulia was visiting Sergei. Was this coincidence?
    If Sergei was the sole target then there would have been plenty of opportunities to do the same another time.
    I do think that if it were planned by the Russian state for some propaganda purpose then the possibility of Yulia being accidental ‘collateral’ damage would have been a significant factor. Russians are sentimental on these points of family.
    So the more likely possibility, to my mind is that Yulia was an actual target. But why?
    Others have speculated that the attack was by Russian Chechnyan criminals to do with some business of Sergei that was not directed by the State, though it might have been framed to implicate and embarrass Putin.
    One thing is we clearly don’t know an awful lot of the back story – even on the Government’s version. Presumably the police investigated Sergei’s and Yulia’s contacts and any other reason for her visit?
    So I’m still not convinced it was a simple attack on Sergei for his history. And we have to consider Yulia being a real target and not ‘collateral’ damage.

  2. Who needed an “analysis”, either weak or strong, from either Patrick Mercer or Theresa May? “Russia was condemned almost immediately”, that is the main point. May made a bee-line for a completely unsubstantiated conspiracy theory and, before you could say Jack Robinson, the Cold War was back on. That was an attempt to make spy thriller out of what ought to have been a whodunnit.

    Referring to Putin’s chances of being elected as his electoral chances isn’t naive. It is tautology.

    Anybody with the slightest knowledge of history, believing a dodgy dossier concocted after all this time, not to discover the truth, but to prove an official conspiracy theory spouted “immediately” – that’s what I call naive.

    • We also “know” that those damned Ruskies doped their athletes on the “evidence” of one whistle-blower.

      Who just happens to now live in the US.

      And that Assad (and those pesky Ruskies again) has repeatedly used Chemical weapons on the basis of OPCW reports that, errmm, contain no actual evidence of anything, never mind proof (read em).

      Oh, and we also know all that at times that are most damaging to the evil Putin and most advantageous to the US.

      Surely that can’t be a coincidence?

      But then perhaps Putin is a CIA double agent?!

  3. The Skripals are out of the public eye for their own safety, most likely in a ‘Five Eyes’ country. The conspiracy theorists won’t believe that of course, because, well, in their eyes, “the West is always to blame.”

  4. Theresa May did not accuse Russia ‘almost immediately’ of the attack, which would indeed have been reckless. She accused Russia on the 12th of March, over a week after the attack. I don’t think, in context, that could be construed as ‘almost immediately’.

    Regarding Patrick Mercer, there are clear questions for our political system about how an obviously unfit man could not only become an MP, but the Chairman of the House of Commons Counter-Terrorism Sub-Committee.

  5. Those questions may be answered by the “social networking” employed among ex-officer types.

  6. There’s much more to Novichok than even Mercer mentioned.

    When I first heard of it and did a bit of Googling I quickly found:

    The SOVIETS started work on it because they had gained intelligence that the US had ALREADY started work on something similar (so would be likely to have developed it first).

    The SOVIETS had developed it ON PAPER THEORETICALLY, there was no evidence it had been made in a lab, never mind on a production basis (chemists know “how” to make gold out of lead, but none of them can do it!).

    When the wall fell, and the SOVIET Union broke up, Uzbekistan handed its Chemical Weapons over to the US “for destruction” (just as Assad did).

    Yes, it’s possible they might not have cooperated fully on this but they did on black sites, rendition, and other operations with the CIA.

    The scientists who worked on the (theoretical) “development” of Novichok now live in the US.

    So if the use of “Novichok” is “proof” of anything it can only be proof that it was the US wot dunnit!

  7. Astonished to see such blatant government propaganda sucked in so easily by people I had considered intellectually capable. This is just what happened when the Satanic Ritual abuse allegations were originally made. There was a ‘rush to believe the worst fears’.

    Russia is a far distant beast from what it was during the cold-war when consistent anti-communist propaganda from the West (some of it deserved) demonised Russians and had the population in terror worrying about instant armageddon.

    The first thing to note is that Russians are now CHRISTIANS not communists. They always were (beneath the veneer of sovietisation). In fact it was a fifth column of Christians which took advantage of Russia’s pre1989 failed economy to create the last Russian revolution against the state. Solidarity, Lec Walesa and many others who started that revolution were all re-emerged Christians. Today the Russian Orthodox church is one of the strongest influences on the life of Russians and from being enforced atheists they are now by choice Christians. The old idea that Russians were dangerous because their communist ideology made them nihilists and therefore more ready to drop the first bomb is just outdated propaganda. They are like us in the West. They are not fools and they are not out to conquer the world, only to protect their own interests.

    Secondly the military might of Russia is ONE TENTH of that of the U.S. The US has ten times the planes, tanks, bombs etc. If it were not for the fact that they have nuclear weapons the U.S. would invade or cause wars towards regime change in Russian in an instant. Russia is no threat to the West ideologically nor militarily. They do have an important role in balancing the geo-political operations of the U.S. elsewhere in the world, particularly the Middle-East.

    Thirdly, A timeline of Putin’s ‘crimes’ shows that they always tend to appear at precisely the optimum moment to scare the population into support for more military action by the U.S. (rubber-stamped by its poodle Britain) in the Middle East and elsewhere.

    If a level head is used it can be clearly seen that the attempt by the West to monopolise the Ukraine was a direct threat to the Russian navy very similar to the Cuban Missile Crises and forced their hand into taking their only port entry to the meditteranean at Sevastipol. The civil war in the Ukraine was created by NATO pressing Russia at the behest of the U.S.

    Another commentator here has explained how fictitious ‘barrel bombs’ of poisoned gas were blamed on the Syrians and have been highly successfully used in propaganda to thwart Assad’s victory over extremist Islamic fighters. Assad has every right to protect his own country with his own army, it is the U.S which is the interloper here, and the equipper of those Islamic forces against Assad, a largely unnecessary conflict which has caused the deaths of another few million innocent women and children in a disastrous war which has returned another Arab country to the middle-ages.

    In the arena of spies and espionage nothing is ever what it seems and the truth is rarely found. What matters it the perception. Most of the people of this country believe that Russian GRU agents specifically came to this country to assassinate an ex-spy because of some special secrets he held which would bring down Putin. Yet in truth it appears that his poisoning may actually have been an accident of some sort, just as it was with poor Dawn Sturgess. That’s why the ‘assassination’ attempt on the Skripals failed and they didn’t die. Sturgess got a full shot of the Novichock thinking it was perfume and died.

    Interested observers should listen to George Galloway on this

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxDjj_7QnCY

    for he has proven that the two ‘suspects’ only arrived in Salisbury FOUR HOURS AFTER the Skripals left their home. The ‘fact’ put foward by the British secret service to the effect that the assassins smeared Novichock on the Skripals front door handle was therefore false. The Skripals could not have been contaminated that way because they weren’t actually there. Galloway insists that the two ‘GRU men (there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that these men are members of Russian Intelligence) had a voluntary meeting with the Skripals for another purpose and quotes that the Skripal’s phones were turned off for a four hour period during that day so they couldn’t be tracked. Only after that were they turned back on and only a short time later were they found poisoned in Salisbury.

    Galloway points to the very many Russian emigres who are enemies of Putin with scores to settle and particularly the link twixt this attack and the planned Russian intervention in Syria to help Assad clear the Idlib provence where the last vestiges of ISIS are holding out. Cue more tales of barrel bombs and air-strikes on ‘Chemical Installations’ being bombed to denude the Syrian attack on ISIS.

    Galloway points to another very strange occurrence. The ‘GRU men’ had to apply for a Visa to get into Britain from the Moscow Embassy. Such Visas now contain biometric id including finger-prints which are of course duplicated and filed, yet the British Intelligence services have not identified the men and instead used ‘pseudonyms’ on false passports.

    SIS have not demanded the Russians identify the men from that biometric ID either (now easily done digitally by email). It seems for all the world that the SIS does not want anyone to know who these ‘GRU officers’ really are. Supposed GRU officers who left the most cack-handed espionage trail of evidence to Putin’s door , including taking direct flights from and back to Moscow (absolutely unheard of in spy trade-craft).

    In short there is ample evidence of collusion to foist a scare onto the British public for strategic military purposes and absolutely NO evidence of any kind that these 2 men were Russian spies of any kind with any link to Putin.

    John Dennis

  8. “The rules have changed in the 21st century, we see conspiracy theories & nationalists now peddling all sorts of things, we see the far right in Europe in league with, with, some of Russia’s friends & allies.”
    Ben Wallace MP at about 13:58

    https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/ba9d40bf-d620-4223-ba62-ae24be971cb5?in=13%3A42%3A07#player-tabs

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